Beautiful Native Ferns of the Comox Valley

Whether you like to enjoy our lovely native ferns in their natural setting or you want to grow them in your garden, there is no question that it’s nice to be able to identify and have some knowledge about each of them. Sword, Deer, Bracken, Lady and Maiden Hair ferns are some of the most common local ferns.

We are lucky that these beauties thrive in our Pacific Northwest environment—they grow naturally everywhere in our forests (and they are becoming more available at local garden centres—Canadian Tire even carried quite a few varietals last year). Here are a few facts about each of those listed above:

• Western Sword Fern: Likely the most adaptable of all ferns. Can take more sun and is more drought tolerant than most ferns. Is great for stabilizing slopes. Grows up to 1.5 meters tall. Stays green year-round. Likely the fern you will see most often in nature—there are huge swaths of them in our forests.
• Deer Fern: Adapts to many situations, given adequate shade and/or moisture. Grows up to half a meter. Stays green year-round. Looks similar to the sword fern but is smaller and its growth habit is more compact.
• Bracken Fern: Grows up to 3 meters tall in both sunny and shady spots in dry to moist soil. Is a perennial plant, but dies back in winter. Regrowth is from beautifully curled shoots or fiddleheads.
• Lady Fern: Found in moist to wet forests, meadows and streambanks. Grows up to 2 meters tall and can be aggressive. Dies back completely in winter and can be unsightly.
• Western Maiden Hair Fern: Grows up to 75 cm’s tall in shady, moist areas, often in large colonies near waterfalls. Perhaps is the most prized of these ferns mentioned due to its delicate airy fronds.

If you have a shady spot in your garden, few plants will rival the lush and peaceful feeling that our native ferns will deliver. True, they have no showy colours, but their elegant shapes and gorgeous greens add understated sophistication to any area. And placed in the right environment, they are also an easy-care plant.