Mr. D's Plant of the Week Series: Southern Wood Fern

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A Southern Wood Fern brings classic beauty to any garden. All around Tallahassee and Leon County you’ll find this Florida native in yards, flower beds, front and back porches, along most canopy roads and densely wooded areas.

The Dryopteris ludoviciana (its scientific name; pronounced: dry-OP-tur-iss loo-doe-viss-ee-AY-nuh) patent-leather-like green foliage does have a shiny appearance and can grow up to 4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Other names it’s known by are Southern Shield Fern and Florida Shield Fern.

Throughout the warmer and humid times of the year, the Southern Wood Fern has an aloe-like color which presents an evergreen feel and look. Then during the winter, you’ll notice this beauty shedding its leaves waiting for Spring to return that she may reemerge just a beautiful as before.

Can you name each part of a Southern Wood Fern?

To identify any plant growers will use specific terms to describe each section. With the Southern Wood Fern, there are nine parts. They are the Frond, Stem, Petiole, Blade, Rachis, Pinna, Pinnae, Roots, and Tubers.

The Frond is a fern leaf that is attached to the stem which is typically below ground. The section extending up from the soil is the Petiole. Above that section, you will see the leafy part of the Frond known as the Blade.

From the Blade back to the Petiole is the extension known as the Rachis. Now some leaves are divided multiple times and depending on the fern species other modules are undivided. Pinnate fronds called Pinnae (singular: pinna) are divided into distinct leaflets. A small stem attaches the Pinnae to the Rachis and has specific characteristics.

Below the surface of the soil is where you’ll find the Roots and Tubers. The Tubers are enlarged round structures in ferns used as storage organs for nutrients. They are used for the plant's survival from one season to the next, to give energy and nutrients for regrowth during the upcoming season, and as a means of asexual reproduction.

What to know before you plant and grow your Southern Wood Fern

In our previous article the Blue Agapanthus you’ll remember we mentioned the USDA hardiness zone map for north Florida. When you review the chart again, you’ll find that Tallahassee and Leon County are in Zone 8b at 15°F to 20°F. That makes our zone a perfect climate for planting and growing your Southern Wood Ferns.

The Southern Shield Fern has always been a low maintenance plant. They are easy to grow, needs partial light or full shade, and moderate watering. It is a great starter plant for children to study and any beginner gardener wanting to learn more.

The Dryopteris ludoviciana can withstand drought, forms clumping, and has a moderate growth rate. Your Fern will thank you for protection from direct sunlight and loose, fertile soil with moisture at its roots. Our Florida Dryopteris is native to swamps and wet woods from Florida to Texas and located as far north as Kentucky and the Carolinas.

A word of caution about repellent plants: If you want to use repellent plants do not plant them close to the Southern Wood Fern. This Florida native is known for stunting or inhibiting the growth of most repellent plants which is interesting because the Florida Shield Fern itself repels deer and pests.

Mr. D’s Southern Wood Fern BOGO Offer

Mr. Dickerson appreciates you taking the time to check out his material, visiting his Facebook and Instagram pages, that he would like to extend a special offer this week only to those who love Southern Wood Ferns as much as he does. If you buy one of his Southern Wood Ferns he will give you the second one absolutely free. To take advantage of his offer, call or use the Contact page to set up a time to meet him at the nursery.

If you found the Southern Wood Fern interesting, then check out the Blue Agapanthus material and let us know your thoughts!