A fern is a leafy green plant that grows in shady spots. If you see feathery fronds growing on the forest floor, they're probably ferns.

Ferns are interesting plants in that they spread using spores (similar to the way mushrooms and other fungi reproduce), and they have a vascular system. Their complex leaves, like our circulatory system, move water and nutrients throughout the fern. Unlike most plants, ferns don't have seeds or flowers, but their delicate leaves are lovely enough to make them popular house plants.

Definitions of fern

n any of numerous flowerless and seedless vascular plants having true roots from a rhizome and fronds that uncurl upward; reproduce by spores

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Carboniferous fossil fern characterized by a regular arrangement of the leaflets resembling a comb
film fern, filmy fern
any fern of the genus Hymenophyllum growing in tropical humid regions and having translucent leaves
bristle fern, filmy fern
any fern of the genus Trichomanes having large pinnatifid often translucent fronds; most are epiphytic on tree branches and twigs or terrestrial on mossy banks
flowering fern, osmund
any fern of the genus Osmunda: large ferns with creeping rhizomes; naked sporangia are on modified fronds that resemble flower clusters
Leptopteris superba, Prince-of-Wales feather, Prince-of-Wales fern, Prince-of-Wales plume, Todea superba, crape fern
New Zealand with pinnate fronds and a densely woolly stalks; sometimes included in genus Todea
Todea barbara, crepe fern, king fern
fern of rain forests of tropical Australia and New Zealand and South Africa
Schizaea pusilla, curly grass, curly grass fern
rare small fern of northeastern North America having numerous slender spiraling fronds and forming dense tufts
Anemia adiantifolia, pine fern
fern of Florida and West Indies and Central America with rhizome densely clad in grown hairs
climbing fern
any of several ferns of the genus Lygodium that climb by twining
Mohria caffrorum, scented fern
sweetly scented African fern with narrow bipinnate fronds
aquatic fern, water fern
ferns that grow in water
adder's tongue, adder's tongue fern
ferns with fertile spikes shaped like a snake's tongue
grape fern
a fern of the genus Botrychium having a fertile frond bearing small grapelike clusters of spore cases
Helminthostachys zeylanica, flowering fern
Australasian fern with clusters of sporangia on stems of fertile fronds
Diplopterygium longissimum, giant scrambling fern
large scrambling fern forming large patches to 18 feet high; Pacific region and China
Gleichenia flabellata, Sticherus flabellatus, fan fern, umbrella fern
large Australasian fern with fanlike repeatedly forked fronds; sometimes placed in genus Gleichenia
any of numerous ferns of the genus Polypodium
Aglaomorpha meyeniana, bear's-paw fern
epiphytic fern with large fronds; Taiwan and Philippines
strap fern
fern with long narrow strap-shaped leaves
Drynaria rigidula, basket fern
giant epiphytic or lithophytic fern; Asia to Polynesia and Australia
any of several bizarre ferns of the genus Lecanopteris having swollen hollow rhizomes that provide homes for symbiotic ants
Microgramma-piloselloides, snake polypody
epiphytic ferns with long rhizomes; tropical America
Microsorium punctatum, climbing bird's nest fern
tropical Africa to Australasia and Polynesia
Phlebodium aureum, Polypodium aureum, golden polypody, rabbit's-foot fern, serpent fern
tropical American fern with brown scaly rhizomes cultivated for its large deeply lobed deep bluish-green fronds; sometimes placed in genus Polypodium
staghorn fern
any of various tropical ferns of the genus Platycerium having large flat lobed fronds often resembling the antlers of a stag
Cyclophorus lingua, Pyrrosia lingua, felt fern, tongue fern
east Asian fern having fronds shaped like tongues; sometimes placed in genus Cyclophorus
Solanopteris bifrons, potato fern
small epiphytic fern of South America with tuberous swellings along rhizomes
Vittaria lineata, grass fern, ribbon fern
epiphytic fern found in lowland forests of tropical America
any of various chiefly rock-inhabiting ferns of the genus Asplenium
Asplenium nidus, bird's nest fern
tropical Old World or Australian epiphytic fern frequently forming tufts in tree crotches
Asplenium scolopendrium, Phyllitis scolopendrium, hart's-tongue, hart's-tongue fern
Eurasian fern with simple lanceolate fronds
Asplenium ceterach, Ceterach officinarum, scale fern, scaly fern
small European fern with chaffy leathery fronds
Asplenium nigripes, Schaffneria nigripes, Scolopendrium nigripes
a fern of the genus Schaffneria
a fern thought to resemble a millipede
hard fern
any of several ferns of the genus Blechnum
doodia, rasp fern
any fern of the genus Doodia having pinnate fronds with sharply dentate pinnae
chain fern
a fern of the genus Woodwardia having the sori in chainlike rows
tree fern
any of numerous usually tropical ferns having a thick woody stem or caudex and a crown of large fronds; found especially in Australia and New Zealand; chiefly of the families Cyatheaceae and Marattiaceae but some from Polypodiaceae
any fern of the genus Davallia; having scaly creeping rhizomes
Dennstaedtia punctilobula, boulder fern, hay-scented, hay-scented fern, scented fern
fern of eastern North America with pale green fronds and an aroma like hay
Pteridium aquilinum, bracken, brake, pasture brake
large coarse fern often several feet high; essentially weed ferns; cosmopolitan
Pteridium esculentum, bracken
fern of southeastern Asia; not hardy in cold temperate regions
Culcita dubia, false bracken
resembles Pteridium aquilinum; of Queensland, Australia
buckler fern, shield fern
any of various ferns of the genera Dryopteris or Polystichum or Lastreopsis having somewhat shield-shaped coverings on the sori
wood fern, wood-fern, woodfern
any of various ferns of the genus Dryopteris
Athyrium filix-femina, lady fern
most widely grown fern of the genus Athyrium for its delicate foliage
Athyrium pycnocarpon, Diplazium pycnocarpon, glade fern, narrow-leaved spleenwort, silvery spleenwort
North American fern with narrow fronds on yellowish leafstalks
Cyrtomium aculeatum, Polystichum aculeatum, holly fern
tropical Old World fern having glossy fronds suggestive of holly; sometimes placed in genus Polystichum
bladder fern
any fern of the genus Cystopteris characterized by a hooded indusium or bladderlike membrane covering the sori
Athyrium thelypteroides, Deparia acrostichoides, silvery spleenwort
fern with elongate silvery outgrowths enclosing the developing spores
Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Thelypteris dryopteris, oak fern
bright blue-green fern widely distributed especially in damp acid woodlands of temperate northern hemisphere
Gymnocarpium robertianum, limestone fern, northern oak fern
yellow-green fern of rocky areas of northern hemisphere
Matteuccia struthiopteris, Onoclea struthiopteris, Pteretis struthiopteris, fiddlehead, ostrich fern, shuttlecock fern
tall fern of northern temperate regions having graceful arched fronds and sporophylls resembling ostrich plumes
Olfersia cervina, Polybotria cervina, Polybotrya cervina, hart's-tongue, hart's-tongue fern
tropical American terrestrial fern with leathery lanceolate fronds; sometimes placed in genus Polybotrya
Onoclea sensibilis, bead fern, sensitive fern
beautiful spreading fern of eastern North America and eastern Asia naturalized in western Europe; pinnately divided fronds show a slight tendency to fold when touched; pinnules enclose groups of sori in beadlike lobes
Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, canker brake, dagger fern, evergreen wood fern
North American evergreen fern having pinnate leaves and dense clusters of lance-shaped fronds
holly fern
any of various ferns of the genus Polystichum having fronds with texture and gloss like holly
Polystichum adiantiformis, Rumohra adiantiformis, leather fern, leatherleaf fern, ten-day fern
widely distributed fern of tropical southern hemisphere having leathery pinnatifid fronds
Tectaria cicutaria, button fern
Jamaican fern having round buttonlike bulbils
Indian button fern, Tectaria macrodonta
fern of tropical Asia having round buttonlike bulbils
any fern of the genus Woodsia
Oleandra mollis, Oleandra neriiformis, oleander fern
tropical fern having leathery fronds resembling oleander; found from Asia to Polynesia
sword fern
any of several tropical ferns having more or less sword-shaped fronds including one from which the Boston fern developed
Acrostichum aureum, golden fern, leather fern
stout tropical swamp fern (especially tropical America) having large fronds with golden yellow sporangia covering the undersides
maidenhair, maidenhair fern
any of various small to large terrestrial ferns of the genus Adiantum having delicate palmately branched fronds
Anogramma leptophylla, Jersey fern, annual fern
small short-lived fern of Central and South America
lip fern, lipfern
any of various terrestrial ferns of the genus Cheilanthes; cosmopolitan in arid and semiarid temperate or tropical regions
Cheilanthes gracillima, lace fern
small tufted fern of northwestern America
Coniogramme japonica, bamboo fern
fast-growing sturdy Japanese fern; cultivated for their attractive broad dark-green pinnate fronds
rock brake
dwarf deciduous lithophytic ferns
Doryopteris pedata, hand fern
tropical American fern with coarsely lobed to palmatifid fronds
cliff brake, cliff-brake, rock brake
any of several small lithophytic ferns of tropical and warm temperate regions
Pellaea rotundifolia, button fern
fern of New Zealand and Australia having trailing fronds with dark green buttonlike leaflets
Pityrogramma argentea, silver fern
fern of southern tropical Africa having fronds with white undersides
Pityrogramma calomelanos, silver fern
tropical American fern having fronds with white undersides
Pityrogramma calomelanos aureoflava, golden fern
tropical American fern having fronds with light golden undersides
Pityrogramma chrysophylla, gold fern
fern of West Indies and South America having fronds with bright golden-yellow undersides
any of various ferns of the genus Pteris having pinnately compound leaves and including several popular houseplants
Pteris cretica
cultivated in many varieties as houseplants
Pteris multifida, spider brake, spider fern
Asiatic fern introduced in America
Pteris serrulata, ribbon fern, spider fern
fern of North Africa and Azores and Canary Islands
Marattia salicina, potato fern
large Australasian evergreen fern with an edible rhizome sometimes used as a vegetable by indigenous people
Dryopteris thelypteris, Thelypteris palustris, marsh fern
fern having pinnatifid fronds and growing in wet places; cosmopolitan in north temperate regions
any of several tropical ferns of the genus Christella having thin brittle fronds
Dryopteris oreopteris, Oreopteris limbosperma, mountain fern
common European mountain fern having fragrant lemon or balsam scented fronds
Dryopteris noveboracensis, New York fern, Parathelypteris novae-boracensis
slender shield fern of moist woods of eastern North America; sometimes placed in genus Dryopteris
Massachusetts fern, Parathelypteris simulata, Thelypteris simulata
delicate feathery shield fern of the eastern United States; sometimes placed in genus Thelypteris
beech fern
any fern of the genus Phegopteris having deeply cut triangular fronds
Trichomanes boschianum, hare's-foot bristle fern
a variety of bristle fern
Killarney fern, Trichomanes speciosum
large stout fern of extreme western Europe
Trichomanes reniforme, kidney fern
large fern of New Zealand having kidney-shaped fronds
French bracken, Osmunda regalis, ditch fern, king fern, royal fern, royal osmund
large deeply rooted fern of worldwide distribution with upright bipinnate compound tufted fronds
Osmunda clatonia, interrupted fern
North American fern having tall erect pinnate fronds and a few sporogenous pinnae at or near the center of the fertile fronds
Osmunda cinnamonea, cinnamon fern, fiddlehead, fiddlehead fern
New World fern having woolly cinnamon-colored spore-bearing fronds in early spring later surrounded by green fronds; the early uncurling fronds are edible
Hartford fern, Lygodium palmatum, creeping fern
delicate fern of the eastern United States having a twining stem and palmately-lobed sterile fronds and forked fertile fronds
Lygodium microphyllum, climbing maidenhair, climbing maidenhair fern, snake fern
tropical fern widespread in Old World; naturalized in Jamaica and Florida
clover fern, pepperwort
any of several water ferns of the genus Marsilea having four leaflets
Pilularia globulifera, pillwort
European water fern found around margins of bodies of water or in wet acid soil having small globose sporocarps
Regnellidium diphyllum, regnellidium
small latex-containing aquatic fern of southern Brazil
Salvinia auriculata, Salvinia rotundifolia, floating-moss
free-floating aquatic ferns
Azolla caroliniana, Carolina pond fern, floating fern, mosquito fern
small free-floating aquatic fern from the eastern United States to tropical America; naturalized in western and southern Europe
Ophioglossum pendulum, ribbon fern
epiphytic fern with straplike usually twisted fronds of tropical Asia and Polynesia and America
Botrychium lunaria, common moonwort, moonwort
of America and Eurasia and Australia
Botrychium matricariifolium, daisy-leaved grape fern, daisyleaf grape fern
of North America and Eurasia
Botrychium multifidum, leathery grape fern
European fern with leathery and sparsely hairy fronds
Botrychium virginianum, rattlesnake fern
American fern whose clustered sporangia resemble a snake's rattle
Ceratopteris pteridioides, floating fern, water sprite
aquatic fern of tropical America often used in aquariums
Ceratopteris thalictroides, floating fern
pantropical aquatic fern
Polypodium glycyrrhiza, licorice fern
fern having rootstock of a sweetish flavor
Polypodium polypodioides, gray polypody, grey polypody, resurrection fern
fern growing on rocks or tree trunks and having fronds greyish and scurfy below; Americas and South Africa
Polypodium scouleri, coast polypody, leatherleaf, leathery polypody
stiff leathery-leaved fern of western North America having ovate fronds parted to the midrib
American wall fern, Polypodium virgianum, rock brake, rock polypody
chiefly lithophytic or epiphytic fern of North America and east Asia
Polypodium vulgare, adder's fern, common polypody, golden maidenhair, golden polypody, sweet fern, wall fern
mat-forming lithophytic or terrestrial fern with creeping rootstocks and large pinnatifid fronds found throughout North America and Europe and Africa and east Asia
Florida strap fern, cow-tongue fern, hart's-tongue fern
common epiphytic or sometimes terrestrial fern having pale yellow-green strap-shaped leaves; Florida to West Indies and Mexico and south to Uruguay
Campyloneurum augustifolium, Central American strap fern, narrow-leaved strap fern
fern with shorter and narrower leaves than Florida strap fern; Florida to West Indies and Mexico and south to Argentina
Platycerium andinum, South American staghorn
fern of Peru and Bolivia
Platycerium alcicorne, Platycerium bifurcatum, common staghorn fern, elkhorn fern
commonly cultivated fern of Australia and southeastern Asia and Polynesia
Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, black spleenwort
spleenwort of Europe and Africa and Asia having pinnate fronds and yielding an astringent
Asplenium platyneuron, Scott's Spleenwort, ebony spleenwort
common North American fern with polished black stripes
black-stem spleenwort, black-stemmed spleenwort, little ebony spleenwort
fern of tropical America: from southern United States to West Indies and Mexico to Brazil
Asplenium rhizophyllum, Camptosorus rhizophyllus, walking fern, walking leaf
ferns having lanceolate fronds that root at the tip
Asplenium trichomanes, maidenhair spleenwort
small rock-inhabiting fern of northern temperate zone and Hawaii with pinnate fronds
Asplenium viride, green spleenwort
a small fern with slim green fronds; widely distributed in cool parts of northern hemisphere
Asplenium montanum, mountain spleenwort
a spleenwort of eastern North America
Asplenium ruta-muraria, wall rue, wall rue spleenwort
small delicate spleenwort found on a steep slope (as a wall or cliff) of Eurasia and North America
Asplenium bradleyi, Bradley's spleenwort
a spleenwort of eastern to southern United States
Asplenium pinnatifidum, lobed spleenwort
a spleenwort of eastern and southern United States
Asplenium billotii, lanceolate spleenwort
a spleenwort of western Europe
Blechnum spicant, deer fern
fern with erect fronds of Europe and western North America; often cultivated for deer browse
Virginia chain fern, Woodwardia virginica
North American fern
Cyathea medullaris, black tree fern, sago fern, silver tree fern
a showy tree fern of New Zealand and Australia having a crown of pinnated fronds with whitish undersides
hare's-foot fern
either of two ferns of the genus Davallia having a soft grey hairy rootstock
Davalia bullata, Davalia bullata mariesii, Davallia Mariesii, ball fern, squirrel's-foot fern
feathery fern of tropical Asia and Malaysia
Dicksonia antarctica, soft tree fern
of Australia and Tasmania; often cultivated; hardy in cool climates
Cibotium barometz, Scythian lamb
Asiatic tree fern having dense matted hairs sometimes used as a styptic
Thyrsopteris elegans, thyrsopteris
a terrestrial tree fern of South America
Dryopteris dilatata, broad buckler-fern
European shield fern
Dryopteris fragrans, fragrant cliff fern, fragrant shield fern, fragrant wood fern
fern or northern Eurasia and North America having fragrant fronds
Dryopteris goldiana, Goldie's fern, Goldie's shield fern, goldie's wood fern
North American fern with a blackish lustrous stipe
Dryopteris filix-mas, male fern
fern of North America and Europe whose rhizomes and stalks yield an oleoresin used to expel tapeworms
Dryopteris marginalis, evergreen wood fern, leatherleaf wood fern, marginal wood fern
North American fern with evergreen fronds
Dryopteris oreades, mountain male fern
a fern of the genus Dryopteris
Alpine lady fern, Athyrium distentifolium
a lady fern with deeply cut leaf segments; found in the Rocky Mountains
Cystopteris fragilis, brittle bladder fern, brittle fern, fragile fern
delicate fern widely distributed in North America and European having thin pinnatifid fronds with brittle stems
Cystopteris montana, mountain bladder fern
fern of rocky mountainous areas of hemisphere
Cystopteris bulbifera, berry fern, bulblet bladder fern, bulblet fern
North American fern often bearing bulbils on the leaflets
Braun's holly fern, Polystichum braunii, prickly shield fern
North American fern whose more or less evergreen leathery fronds are covered with pale brown chafflike scales
Polystichum lonchitis, northern holly fern
evergreen European fern widely cultivated
Polystichum scopulinum, western holly fern
North American fern
Polystichum setiferum, soft shield fern
European shield fern cultivated in many varieties
Woodsia ilvensis, fragrant woodsia, oblong woodsia, rusty woodsia
a common rock-inhabiting fern of northern temperate regions having rusty-brown stipes and lanceolate pinnate fronds
Alpine woodsia, Woodsia alpina, flower-cup fern, northern woodsia
slender fern of northern North America with shining chestnut-colored stipes and bipinnate fronds with usually distinct marginal sori
Woodsia glabella, smooth woodsia
rock-inhabiting fern of Arctic and subarctic Europe to eastern Asia
Boston fern, Nephrolepis exaltata, Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis
a sword fern with arching or drooping pinnate fronds; a popular houseplant
Nephrolepis pectinata, basket fern, toothed sword fern
tropical American fern cultivated for its finely divided greyish-green foliage; West Indies and southern Mexico to Peru and Brazil
Adiantum capillus-veneris, Venus maidenhair, Venus'-hair fern, Venushair, common maidenhair, southern maidenhair
delicate maidenhair fern with slender shining black leaf stalks; cosmopolitan
Adiantum pedatum, American maidenhair fern, five-fingered maidenhair fern
hardy palmately branched North American fern with divergent recurved branches borne on lustrous dark reddish stipes
Adiantum bellum, Bermuda maidenhair, Bermuda maidenhair fern
delicate endemic Bermudian fern with creeping rootstock
Adiantum tenerum, brittle maidenhair, brittle maidenhair fern
tropical American fern with broad pinnae; widely cultivated
Alabama lip fern, Cheilanthes alabamensis, smooth lip fern
southeastern United States to northern Mexico and Jamaica
Cheilanthes lanosa, hairy lip fern, wooly lip fern
small North American evergreen fern whose stipes and lower frond surfaces are densely wooly
Cheilanthes eatonii, southwestern lip fern
lip fern of Texas to Oklahoma and Colorado and Arizona and Mexico having tall erect tufted fronds
American parsley fern, American rock brake, Cryptogramma acrostichoides
rock-inhabiting fern of northern North America growing in massive tufts and having fronds resembling parsley
Cryptogramma crispa, European parsley fern, mountain parsley fern
fern of Europe and Asia Minor having short slender rhizome and densely tufted bright green fronds resembling parsley
Pellaea andromedifolia, coffee fern
evergreen fern of California and Baja California
Pellaea atropurpurea, purple rock brake
very short shallowly creeping North American fern usually growing on cliffs or walls and having dark glossy leaf axes
Pellaea mucronata, Pellaea ornithopus, bird's-foot fern
cliff brake of California and Baja California having purple-brown leafstalks
Angiopteris evecta, angiopteris, giant fern
highly variable species of very large primitive ferns of the Pacific tropical areas with high rainfall
Dryopteris thelypteris pubescens, Thelypteris palustris pubescens, meadow fern, snuffbox fern
fern of northeastern North America
Dryopteris hexagonoptera, Phegopteris hexagonoptera, Thelypteris hexagonoptera, broad beech fern, southern beech fern
beech fern of North American woodlands having straw-colored stripes
Dryopteris phegopteris, Phegopteris connectilis, Thelypteris phegopteris, long beech fern, narrow beech fern, northern beech fern
beech fern of North America and Eurasia
Type of:
nonflowering plant, pteridophyte
plants having vascular tissue and reproducing by spores

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