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Broad Buckler Fern

Dryopteris dilatata

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Plant Profile

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
90 centimetres tall
Ditches, gardens, heathland, hedgerows, moorland, mountains, rocky places, waterside, woodland.
Ferns do not produce flowers. They reproduce by means of spores.
Spores ripen in July and August.
The scales on the stalks are dark, or dark-centred. The dark centred scales are a good feature for identifying this fern. Dark green, spreading 3-pinnate fronds (leaves) which are broadly triangular in shape. The fronds appear between April and November. Strongly toothed. One of our most common larger ferns in the British Isles. Perennial.
Other Names:
Shield Fern.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Dryopteris dilatata, also known as the broad buckler fern or shield fern, is a species of fern that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a hardy, evergreen fern that can grow to be up to 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) tall and wide. The fronds are triangular in shape, are dark green and glossy, with a distinct midrib and are relatively broad. They have a triangular shape and are typically around 1-2 feet long.

This species is found in many different types of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous woods, heaths, and rocky slopes. It is a hardy species, and can adapt to different levels of light, shade and soil types as long as it has consistent moisture.

It is an attractive ornamental plant that is often used in gardens and landscapes, it can be grown in rock gardens, woodland gardens, or along a stream or pond. It also can be used in large containers on patios, decks or terraces, or they can be used as indoor house plants. It can be propagated by spores or by division of the rhizomes.

Care for Dryopteris dilatata is easy, it requires consistent moisture, but can tolerate drought once established. It prefers light shade or filtered sunlight, but it can also grow in full sun or full shade, it's not picky about soil type, but it prefers well-draining soil that is consistently moist. It can be fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer in spring for best growth.

It's hardy and easy to care, makes it a good choice for many garden and landscape settings, and it can also be an interesting addition to a collection of ferns.


Broad Buckler Fern, scientifically known as Dryopteris dilatata, is a perennial fern that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the family Dryopteridaceae, which includes about 1,500 species of ferns. This fern is commonly found in woodlands, hedgerows, and rocky places, and is known for its distinctive appearance and many uses.


The Broad Buckler Fern is a medium-sized fern that can grow up to 90cm tall. Its fronds are long and lance-shaped, with a glossy dark green color on the upper side and paler green on the underside. The fronds are divided into smaller leaflets that are arranged alternately along the stem. The leaflets have a serrated edge and are tapered at the tip.


The Broad Buckler Fern has a number of uses, both practical and aesthetic. Historically, the fern was used for its medicinal properties, and was believed to be effective in treating various ailments such as wounds, fever, and respiratory problems. The fern also has a long history of use in the production of dyes, and was commonly used to create a yellow or green dye for textiles.

In addition to its practical uses, the Broad Buckler Fern is a popular ornamental plant, and is often grown in gardens and parks for its striking appearance. The fern is particularly well-suited to shady areas, and can be used to create a lush and natural-looking backdrop for other plants.

Growing Conditions

The Broad Buckler Fern is a hardy plant that can be grown in a range of conditions. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial to full shade, but can also tolerate some sun if the soil is consistently moist. The fern is also fairly cold-tolerant, and can withstand temperatures down to -20°C.


Broad Buckler Ferns can be propagated through spores or by division. Spores are collected from mature fronds, which are dried and then shaken to release the spores. These spores can be sown in a moist growing medium and kept in a warm, humid environment until they begin to germinate. Alternatively, established plants can be divided by carefully separating the root ball and replanting the divisions in fresh soil.

Ecology and Habitat

The Broad Buckler Fern is a common fern in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, rocky outcrops, and hedgerows. The fern prefers moist soil and can grow in both acidic and alkaline conditions. It is also tolerant of heavy shade, making it an ideal plant for woodland gardens and shady borders.

The fern provides habitat for a variety of animals, including insects, birds, and small mammals. It is also a food source for a number of herbivorous animals, such as deer and rabbits.

Conservation Status

The Broad Buckler Fern is not currently listed as an endangered species, but it is vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activity. As more land is developed and natural habitats are destroyed, the fern's populations may become fragmented and isolated, making it more difficult for the plant to reproduce and spread.

Cultural Significance

The Broad Buckler Fern has played an important role in human culture for thousands of years. In ancient times, the fern was believed to have mystical powers and was often used in rituals and ceremonies. It was also believed to be a symbol of fertility and rebirth.

In more recent times, the fern has been used in traditional medicine and as a source of natural dyes. The fern's leaves were boiled to create a yellow or green dye that was used to color wool and other textiles.


The Broad Buckler Fern reproduces through spores, which are located on the underside of the fronds. The spores are released in the summer and can be carried by the wind to new locations. When the spores land on a suitable substrate, they germinate and grow into a new plant.

The fern can also reproduce asexually through rhizomes, which are underground stems that produce new fronds and roots. This method of reproduction allows the fern to spread quickly and form large colonies.

Companions and Combinations

The Broad Buckler Fern is a great plant to use in combination with other shade-loving perennials such as Hosta, Astilbe, and Pulmonaria. Its glossy, dark green foliage provides a great backdrop for lighter-colored plants, and its height and texture create a natural-looking and diverse garden.

In addition to other plants, the Broad Buckler Fern can also be used as a companion plant to attract beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs. These insects are natural predators of many common garden pests and can help keep your garden healthy and pest-free.


The Broad Buckler Fern is a low-maintenance plant that requires very little care. It prefers moist soil and should be watered regularly during dry spells. It can also benefit from a layer of organic mulch to help retain moisture and control weeds.

If the fern becomes too large or begins to look crowded, it can be divided in the spring or fall. This will help to rejuvenate the plant and promote new growth.

Pests and Diseases

The Broad Buckler Fern is relatively pest and disease resistant, but it can be susceptible to fungal diseases such as rust and leaf spot. These diseases can be prevented by providing good air circulation around the plant and avoiding overwatering.

In terms of pests, the fern can sometimes be affected by slugs and snails, which can eat the leaves and damage the plant. These pests can be controlled with traps, barriers, and natural predators such as birds and hedgehogs.

In conclusion, the Broad Buckler Fern is a versatile and valuable plant that has many uses in the garden and beyond. Its hardiness, adaptability, and low maintenance requirements make it a great choice for both novice and experienced gardeners alike. Whether used as an ornamental plant or for its practical uses, the Broad Buckler Fern is a beautiful and important addition to any garden or natural setting.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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