In my humble opinion, ferns are one of the most overlooked groups of plants in West Virginia forests and woodlands. Here in Greenbrier County, more than 50 different species thrive. I can’t claim to be an expert in fern identification, and that’s not because they’re complicated, it’s just that I haven’t had the time to really study them to the depths that I’d like to. Perhaps, when I grow up, I’ll have more time.
Certainly, the most ubiquitous fern we encounter on our woodland walks and hikes is Polystichum acrostichoides, or The “Christmas Fern.” Why do folks call this evergreen fern the “Christmas Fern”? There are two reasons, and they both involve the individual pinnae, or leaf blades, on the frond. If you hold them horizontally, they resemble Santa Claus standing up on the back of his sled. If you hold them vertically, they resemble a Christmas stocking. C’mon, kids! A little imagination goes a long way here.