Open the Advanced Search

Crested Buckler Fern

Dryopteris cristata

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Fens, gardens, wetland, woodland.
Ferns do not have flowers. They reproduce by means of spores.
The spores are present on only the inner leaves. They mature in August and September.
A creeping, tufted fern, appearing from June to December. The leaves are oblong and narrow. They are light green and parallel-sided. Pale brown scales. The short leaflets are sharp-toothed.
Other Names:
Crested Wood Fern, Curly Wood Fern, Fen Buckler Fern.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Dryopteris cristata, also known as crested wood fern or curly wood fern, is a species of fern that is native to North America, as well as parts of Europe and Asia. It is a perennial plant that typically grows to be about two to three feet tall, with a slightly wider spread. The fronds of D. cristata are evergreen and are about 2 feet long and 6-12 inches wide. They are feathery and compound, with a long central stem that has many leaflets or pinnae, which are further divided into smaller segments or pinnules. The leaves are green and glossy on the upper surface and paler and slightly felted on the underside.

The most distinctive feature of D. cristata is its ruffled or crisped appearance, which gives the plant its common name of "crested wood fern." This ruffling is caused by the tips of the leaflets curling inward.

This fern prefers moist, well-drained soils and partial to full shade, and it is commonly found in woodlands, along streams and rivers, and in rocky or sandy areas. It is considered an important food source for several species of wildlife. It is also a popular ornamental plant due to its attractive foliage, and it can be grown in gardens, along borders, or as a ground cover. This fern is hardy in USDA zones 3-8, tolerant to some degree of drought, and can handle sun exposure in cooler climates.

Dryopteris cristata is a widely distributed and common fern, not considered as threatened species and it is commonly available commercially.


The Crested Buckler Fern, or Dryopteris cristata, is a unique and beautiful fern that is popular among gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike. With its distinctive fronds and hardy nature, the Crested Buckler Fern is a great addition to any garden or indoor plant collection.

Description and Habitat

The Crested Buckler Fern is a medium-sized fern that typically grows to be around 1-2 feet tall and wide. Its fronds are a bright green color and are made up of several leaflets or pinnae. The fronds are held upright and have a unique crested shape that gives this fern its name.

The Crested Buckler Fern is native to North America, where it can be found growing in moist woodlands, rocky hillsides, and along streams and riverbanks. It prefers a shady location with well-draining soil and regular moisture.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for a Crested Buckler Fern is relatively easy, as this fern is quite hardy and adaptable. To keep it healthy and thriving, it is important to provide it with the right growing conditions.

First, make sure that the Crested Buckler Fern is planted in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. This fern also prefers a shady location, so be sure to place it in an area where it will receive dappled sunlight or full shade.

When it comes to watering, the Crested Buckler Fern likes to stay consistently moist. However, it is important not to overwater this fern, as it is susceptible to root rot. Instead, water it regularly and keep an eye on the soil moisture level to ensure it stays within the appropriate range.


If you want to propagate your Crested Buckler Fern, there are a few different methods you can try. One of the easiest ways to propagate this fern is through division. To do this, simply dig up the plant and gently separate the clumps of roots into smaller sections. Then, replant each section in its own pot or in a new location in the garden.

Another way to propagate the Crested Buckler Fern is through spores. This method is a bit more involved, but it can be a fun and rewarding way to grow new plants. To propagate this fern through spores, you will need to collect the spores and grow them in a suitable growing medium. This process can take several months, but with patience and careful attention, you can grow your own new plants.

The Crested Buckler Fern is a beautiful and unique plant that can add a touch of elegance and charm to any garden or indoor space. With its hardy nature and easy-care requirements, this fern is a great choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners alike. Whether you choose to propagate it through division or spores, the Crested Buckler Fern is sure to delight you with its graceful fronds and distinctive appearance.

Benefits of the Crested Buckler Fern

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the Crested Buckler Fern also offers several benefits that make it a valuable addition to any garden or indoor space. For example, this fern can help to improve indoor air quality by removing harmful pollutants such as formaldehyde and xylene from the air. This makes it a great choice for homes, offices, and other indoor spaces where air quality may be a concern.

In addition, the Crested Buckler Fern can help to create a more peaceful and calming atmosphere. Studies have shown that exposure to nature and natural environments can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. By incorporating this fern into your home or garden, you can create a peaceful and relaxing space that promotes a sense of wellbeing and tranquility.

Tips for Growing the Crested Buckler Fern

While the Crested Buckler Fern is a hardy plant that is relatively easy to care for, there are a few tips that can help you ensure that your fern grows and thrives to its full potential. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure to plant your Crested Buckler Fern in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. This will help to provide the plant with the nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy.
  • Keep your fern in a shady location, as it prefers to be out of direct sunlight. However, make sure that the location still provides enough light to allow the plant to photosynthesize and grow.
  • Water your Crested Buckler Fern regularly, but make sure not to overwater it. The soil should be consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Check the soil moisture level regularly to ensure that it is within the appropriate range.
  • Finally, consider adding a layer of mulch around the base of your fern to help retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. This can help to create a healthier and more vibrant growing environment for your plant.

The Crested Buckler Fern is a beautiful and unique plant that offers a wide range of benefits for gardeners and plant enthusiasts. Whether you are looking to add a touch of elegance to your indoor space or create a peaceful and calming garden environment, this fern is an excellent choice. With its hardy nature, easy-care requirements, and distinctive appearance, the Crested Buckler Fern is sure to delight and inspire you for years to come.

Historical Significance and Folklore

The Crested Buckler Fern has a rich history and is steeped in folklore and legend. In many cultures, this fern was considered to be a symbol of protection and warding. In medieval Europe, it was believed that carrying a sprig of the Crested Buckler Fern could protect one from evil spirits and enchantments. In some Native American cultures, the leaves of this fern were used to ward off evil spirits and to create sacred spaces.

In addition, the Crested Buckler Fern has been used for medicinal purposes in some cultures. It was believed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and was often used to treat bruises, sprains, and other injuries.

Today, the Crested Buckler Fern continues to be a beloved and respected plant in many cultures. Its unique beauty and hardy nature make it a popular choice for gardens, parks, and other green spaces around the world.

Cultural Significance

The Crested Buckler Fern is also significant in the realm of art and design. Its distinctive fronds and unique shape have inspired artists and designers for centuries. From intricate botanical illustrations to modern graphic design, the Crested Buckler Fern has been a popular subject for artists and designers of all kinds.

In addition, this fern has been incorporated into a wide range of decorative arts, including pottery, textiles, and furniture. Its elegant shape and graceful appearance make it a natural choice for a variety of artistic and decorative applications.

Final Thoughts

The Crested Buckler Fern is a beautiful and fascinating plant that offers a wide range of benefits and cultural significance. Whether you are a gardener, a plant enthusiast, or simply appreciate the natural world, this fern is sure to delight and inspire you. With its unique appearance, hardy nature, and rich history, the Crested Buckler Fern is a truly special plant that deserves a place in any garden or indoor space.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map