Gymnocarpium dryopteris

Oak Fern


Circumboreal, Alaska to Newfoundland, south to Oregon, northern Idaho, NW Montana, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland

Climate, elevation

Moist forests, streambanks, and wet cliffs from lowland to mid-montane elevations

883m- 5860m

Local occurrence

Very abudant in the understory of coniferous forests throughout the Pacific Northwest

Habitat preferences

Moist to wet heavily shaded forests, rocky slopes

Plant strategy type/successional stage (stress-tolerator, competitor, weedy/colonizer, seral, late successional)

Facultative Seral Species

Associated species

Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), noble fir (Abies procera), lodgepole pine(Pinus contorta), Alaska blueberry (Vaccinium alaskensis), red huckleberry (V. parviflorum), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), salmonberry (R. spectabilis), devil's club (Oplopanax horridus), menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), salal (Gaultheria shallon), Oregon oxalis (Oxalis oregana), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum dilatatum), twisted stalk (Streptopus spp.), threeleaf foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata), woodnymph (Moneses uniflora), pioneer violet (Viola glabrella), western swordfern (Polystichum munitum), ladyfern (Athyrium filix-femina), bracken fern(Pteridium aquilinum), woodfern (Dryopteris spp.), stiff clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum)

May be collected as:

Spores, Division

Collection restrictions or guidelines

Spore: Place spore surface down on butcher paper to collect spores. Spores will appear as a fine dust on the paper after several days of drying.

Collect spores when mature, usually from July to late August from the surface of paper and surface sow in sterilized flats filled with sterile, finely milled peat moss

Division: Can be divided in spring if the rhizome is large and the roots are well developed.

Seed germination

No dormancy breaking required

Seed life

Spore viability highly variable, usually low after 1 year

Recommended seed storage conditions

Store spores in glassine envelopes or in packets or waxed paper. Store packets at 1-4 C, in moisture-tight and air tight containers.

Propagation recommendations

Divisions: Divisions of rhizomes can be done in early spring with at least 1 leaf shoot or bud per rhizome section and transplanted into containers

Soil or medium requirements

Moist mildly acidic

Installation form

Division has the highest potential for success

Recommended planting density

About every 2ft

Care requirements after installed

Average water requirements

Normal rate of growth or spread; lifespan

Fast growing/ spreading Deciduous perennial 

Sources cited

1. http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/ferns/gymnodry.html

2. E-Folra BC. http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Gymnocarpium+dryopteris

3. Native Plant Nursery, Glacier National Park. http://nativeplants.for.uidaho.edu/network/view.asp?protocol_id=91

Data compiled by

Kelly Sutton 5/23/06