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Rigid Buckler Fern

Dryopteris submontana

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Plant Profile

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Mountains, rocky places, waterside, woodland.
Flowers are absent since ferns reproduce by spores.
The spores ripen between July and September in the UK.
Growing only on Limestone pavements, almost exclusively in North West England. This is a rare fern which appears in leaf between May and November. The leaves (or fronds) are narrowly triangular, rigid (hence its name), dull in colour and usually have many yellowish hairs. The stalks are also yellowish and have dark bases. The scales on the fronds are pale brown.
Other Names:
Limestone Buckler Fern, Mountain Wood Fern.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Dryopteris submontana, also known as mountain woodfern, is a terrestrial fern that is part of the Dryopteridaceae family. It is native to North America and Canada, specifically found in Eastern North America, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes regions.

The plant has dark green, evergreen fronds that are typically 30-60 cm long and 15-20 cm wide, and are lance-shaped, leathery, and glossy. The fronds are arranged in a rosette, and have a triangular shape. The fertile fronds are found separately, are erect and are covered with brown sori (spore-producing structures) on the underside.

Dryopteris submontana is not commonly cultivated in gardens, but it is often found growing wild in wooded areas, along stream banks, and in rocky outcroppings. It prefers moist, shady sites and tolerates a wide range of soil types. The plant can be propagated by spores or by dividing the rhizomes.

This fern species is a low-maintenance plant and not known to be invasive. However, it can spread aggressively in some areas, and this can be controlled by regular monitoring, removing any new growth and also by using rhizome barriers.

Dryopteris submontana has not been used traditionally for medicinal purposes, and there is no scientific evidence of any medicinal properties.


The Rigid Buckler Fern, scientifically known as Dryopteris submontana, is a beautiful fern species that is native to many regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America. The fern has distinctive features that make it easy to identify, and it is often used for decorative purposes due to its unique appearance.

Physical Characteristics

The Rigid Buckler Fern has a rhizome that grows underground and produces fronds that can reach up to 90 cm in height. The fronds are triangular in shape and have a distinctive glossy, dark green color. The leaflets are pointed and sharply toothed, and they grow in an alternating pattern on either side of the stem. The fronds have a rigid and upright form, which gives them a shield-like appearance, hence the common name "buckler."

Habitat and Growing Conditions

The Rigid Buckler Fern is a hardy species that can grow in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, forests, and even rocky areas. It prefers well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter and can tolerate a range of soil types, from sandy loam to clay. The fern thrives in partial shade and can tolerate full sun, but it requires consistent moisture to grow and maintain its vibrant color.

Cultivation and Maintenance

The Rigid Buckler Fern is relatively easy to grow and maintain, making it a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers. The fern can be propagated through division, where the rhizome is separated into smaller pieces and replanted in new soil. It can also be propagated through spores, but this method requires more skill and patience.

To maintain healthy growth, the fern should be watered regularly, especially during dry spells. It benefits from a regular application of fertilizer, which should be high in organic matter and low in nitrogen. Pruning is not required, but removing any dead or damaged fronds can help promote healthy growth.


The Rigid Buckler Fern is a popular choice for ornamental purposes, and it is often used in gardens, parks, and other landscaping projects. It adds a unique texture and color to any planting scheme, and its hardiness makes it a low-maintenance option. In addition, the fern has been used for medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

The Rigid Buckler Fern is a beautiful and hardy fern species that is easy to grow and maintain. Its unique appearance and adaptability make it a popular choice for ornamental purposes, while its medicinal properties make it a valuable resource in traditional medicine. Whether you are a gardener or a nature enthusiast, the Rigid Buckler Fern is a plant that is sure to impress.

More Information

The Rigid Buckler Fern is a member of the Dryopteridaceae family, which includes other fern species such as the Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and the Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). This family of ferns is known for their decorative fronds and ability to thrive in various growing conditions.

In the wild, the Rigid Buckler Fern provides important habitat and food sources for various wildlife species. The fern's dense foliage can provide cover for small animals and insects, while the spores it produces can be an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

The Rigid Buckler Fern has also been used in various cultural traditions throughout history. In some Native American cultures, the fern was believed to provide protection against evil spirits, and it was used in various spiritual and healing practices. In European folklore, the fern was associated with magic and was believed to have various mystical properties.

While the Rigid Buckler Fern is a hardy species, it can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Common pests include slugs and snails, which can damage the fronds, and mites, which can cause discoloration and damage to the plant. Diseases such as fungal infections can also affect the fern, particularly if it is grown in poorly-drained soil.

The Rigid Buckler Fern is a beautiful and versatile plant species that offers both ornamental and ecological benefits. It is easy to grow and maintain, and its unique appearance and adaptability make it a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers. Whether you are a plant enthusiast or just looking to add a touch of greenery to your home or garden, the Rigid Buckler Fern is a plant that is sure to impress.

The Rigid Buckler Fern can also be used in various ways beyond just ornamental or medicinal purposes. For example, the fern has been used for basket weaving, where its strong and flexible fronds can be woven together to create baskets, mats, and other woven items. Additionally, the fern has been used as a dye plant, where the fronds can be boiled to extract a dark brown dye that can be used to dye fabrics and yarns.

The Rigid Buckler Fern is a highly adaptable species that can tolerate a range of growing conditions, making it an ideal plant for restoration and conservation projects. The fern can be used to restore degraded or disturbed sites, such as abandoned mines or construction sites, as it can help stabilize soils and prevent erosion. It can also be used in wetland restoration projects, where its ability to tolerate moist soils can help improve wetland function and habitat for wildlife.

In some areas, the Rigid Buckler Fern is considered an invasive species, as it can spread quickly and outcompete native plant species. In these areas, it is important to monitor the fern and prevent it from spreading beyond its natural range.

Overall, the Rigid Buckler Fern is a versatile and valuable plant species that offers many benefits beyond just its aesthetic and medicinal qualities. Whether it's for ornamental, cultural, ecological, or practical uses, the fern is a plant that has something to offer for everyone.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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