Open the Advanced Search

Narrow Buckler Fern

Dryopteris carthusiana

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:
90 centimetres tall
Bogs, riverbanks, riversides, rocky places, swamps, walls, waterside, wetland, woodland.
Ferns are flowerless. Instead they are spore-producing.
The spores ripen in August and September.
A tufted fern with uniform pale brown scales on the stalks. The narrowly oblong leaves are pale yellowish-green.
Other Names:
Spinulose Shield Fern, Spinulose Wood Fern, Toothed Wood Fern.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Dryopteris carthusiana, also known as spinulose wood fern or spinulose shield fern, is a species of fern that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a perennial plant that typically grows to be about one to three feet tall. The fronds of D. carthusiana are evergreen and are about 2-3 feet long and 6-12 inches wide. They are divided into many narrow, sharply pointed leaflets, hence the common name "spinulose shield fern." The fronds are green and glossy on the upper surface, and paler and slightly felted on the underside. They are held on dark brown, wiry and erect stipes (stems)

The most distinctive feature of this fern is the presence of small spines or "spinules" along the leaflet margins. These spines give the plant a rough, hairy texture and also add to its distinctive appearance.

This fern is well adapted to dry and shady conditions and prefer well-drained soils and will grow in full to partial shade. It is often found growing in rocky crevices, on walls, or on banks of streams and rivers. The spinulose wood fern is a popular ornamental plant, and can be grown in rock gardens, woodland gardens, or as a border plant. It is widely available commercially and considered as an easy plant to grow. It can also be grown indoors, in a terrarium or a well-lit room.

D. carthusiana is considered as hardy in USDA zones 4-8 and tolerant to some degree of drought, and can handle sun exposure in cooler climates, but will benefit from some shade in hot weather.


Narrow Buckler Fern, also known as Dryopteris carthusiana, is a popular fern species that is widely distributed across North America, Europe, and Asia. This plant belongs to the Dryopteridaceae family and is a common sight in woodlands, rocky slopes, and shaded areas. In this blog, we will explore some interesting facts about the Narrow Buckler Fern and why it is a popular plant among gardeners and nature enthusiasts.

Appearance and Characteristics

The Narrow Buckler Fern is a medium-sized fern that can grow up to 2-3 feet tall. It has a tufted growth habit, with fronds that are pinnate and lance-shaped. The fronds are dark green and glossy, with a leathery texture. They are also bipinnate, which means that they have numerous small leaflets on each side of the stem. The Narrow Buckler Fern is a deciduous fern, which means that it sheds its leaves in the fall.

The plant has a rhizomatous root system that spreads rapidly, allowing it to form large clumps over time. The Narrow Buckler Fern prefers to grow in acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. It also requires a moist and shaded environment to thrive.

Uses of the Narrow Buckler Fern

The Narrow Buckler Fern is a popular plant for landscaping and ornamental purposes. It is often used as a ground cover in shaded areas or as a border plant for pathways and flower beds. Its tufted growth habit and glossy fronds make it an attractive addition to any garden.

In addition to its ornamental value, the Narrow Buckler Fern has some medicinal properties as well. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, such as stomach disorders, respiratory infections, and skin conditions. However, it is important to note that these uses have not been extensively studied, and it is always recommended to consult a healthcare professional before using any plant for medicinal purposes.

Conservation and Protection

The Narrow Buckler Fern is not considered to be a threatened or endangered species. However, like many other fern species, it is susceptible to habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and agriculture. It is important to protect the natural habitats of this plant to ensure its survival and to preserve the biodiversity of our planet.

The Narrow Buckler Fern is a fascinating plant that has both ornamental and medicinal value. Its tufted growth habit and glossy fronds make it an attractive addition to any garden, while its medicinal properties make it a plant of interest to those interested in natural medicine. As we continue to learn more about this plant and its uses, it is important to also work towards its conservation and protection to ensure its survival for generations to come.

Facts about Narrow Buckler Fern

Here are some additional interesting facts about the Narrow Buckler Fern:

  1. The Narrow Buckler Fern gets its common name from the small, shield-like structures on the underside of its fronds called "bucklers". These bucklers are actually indusia, which are modified leaf tissue that protect the fern's spores.

  2. The spores of the Narrow Buckler Fern are produced in small, round structures called sori that are located on the underside of the fronds. These sori are covered by the indusia and release the spores when they mature.

  3. The Narrow Buckler Fern is often confused with the Spinulose Wood Fern (Dryopteris carthusiana). While these two species look very similar, they can be distinguished by the presence of small, spiky projections on the fronds of the Spinulose Wood Fern.

  4. The Narrow Buckler Fern is a favorite food of the White-tailed Deer. These animals can heavily graze the fronds of the fern, which can affect its growth and reproduction.

  5. The Narrow Buckler Fern has been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of ailments, such as rheumatism, kidney disorders, and snakebites. It has also been used as a diuretic and to induce vomiting.

  6. In addition to its medicinal uses, the Narrow Buckler Fern has been used in the production of dyes. The fronds of the fern can be boiled to produce a yellow-green dye that was used to color wool and other textiles.

  7. The Narrow Buckler Fern is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of conditions, from full shade to partial sun. However, it does prefer moist, well-draining soil.

  8. In the fall, the fronds of the Narrow Buckler Fern turn a beautiful golden color before falling off for the winter. This can make for a stunning display in a woodland or shaded garden.

  9. The Narrow Buckler Fern has been used in Native American cultures for various purposes. For example, the Cherokee people used a decoction of the root to treat stomachaches, while the Navajo people used the plant to make a dye.
  10. While the Narrow Buckler Fern is not considered an invasive species, it can spread rapidly in the right conditions. Gardeners should be mindful of its rhizomatous growth habit and make sure to plant it in an area where it will not overtake other plants.

  11. The Narrow Buckler Fern is a great plant for attracting wildlife to the garden. In addition to being a food source for deer, it can provide cover and nesting sites for birds and other small animals.

​​​​​​Overall, the Narrow Buckler Fern is a versatile and interesting plant that can add beauty and interest to any garden or natural area. Its attractive fronds, hardiness, and usefulness make it a popular choice for many gardeners and nature enthusiasts.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map