8 Different Types of Ferns with Interesting Facts and Pictures

Last Updated on November 8, 2023

Over recent years, ferns have become more and more popular among those who are looking for a gorgeous plant to spruce up their indoor or outdoor space. There are many types of ferns out there, each having their own individual needs and requirements when it comes to looking after them and growing them correctly, but all of them have their own beauty about them and they’ve started to truly take the gardening world by storm!

What Is A Fern?

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A fern is a type of plant that reproduces through spores – unlike most plants which often need either flowers or seeds to reproduce. This makes ferns unique compared to any other type of plant that is grown and the shapes and sizes that they can grow into really can vary from anything you might ever have seen. Most ferns can be identified by their distinctive look as opposed to anything else, most novice gardeners can separate a fern these days.

Types Of Fern

Types of Indoor Ferns

Grey Ghost Fern

The Grey Ghost is an indoor fern that thrives under partial or complete shade, it can be kept well out of sunlight and can grow to 2 or 3 feet in height.

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Hart’s Tongue Fern

A more exotic-looking fern that also thrives with either partial or complete shade. They are a little smaller than the Grey Ghost and only grow to about 1 or 2 feet in height.

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Staghorn Fern

This fern can technically be grown indoors and outdoors, but it is a tricky one. If you want to grow it indoors, you need to supply it with bright light often to allow it to grow to its full potential. However, if you grow it outdoors, you need to make sure it stays out of direct sunlight or it will end up having its leaves burned. The Staghorn tends to reach 3 feet.

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Delta Maidenhair

Another fern that can be grown outdoors, but should be kept out of direct sunlight. It is much better grown indoors, kept away from sunlight. These ferns can be anywhere between 1 or 2 feet high.

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Hen and Chickens Fern

Hen and Chickens ferns thrive in partial shade indoors. They start small and adorable but can grow to a rather formidable size of 3 to 4 feet.

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Types of Outdoor Ferns

Eagle Fern

The first of the outdoor ferns, the Eagle Fern needs to be kept in direct sunlight to flourish. It can do just as well in part shade, but it’s recommended to allow it to soak in the full force of the sun. It can grow to 4 feet tall, but in some cases, it’s been seen to even reach 6 feet!

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Giant Wood Fern

While the Giant Wood Fern thrives outdoors, it’s still a good idea to keep it under a little bit of shade to watch it thrive. They can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall.

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Australian Tree Fern

This fern requires the full sun to make sure it grows into a healthy plant. It’s a pretty spectacular size when fully grown so it is often recommended to grow it near trees to fit it into your outdoor space nicely. They can reach 30 feet in height, but most tend to stop around the 15 feet mark.

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Unique Fern Varieties

In this section, we will introduce you to some unique fern varieties, which we believe will pique your interest. These ferns not only add beauty to gardens but also serve as great indoor plants. Without further ado, let’s dive into these fascinating plants.

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern, scientifically known as Adiantum capillus-veneris, is a delicate plant with feathery, light green fronds. This elegant fern loves moist, well-drained soil and prefers a shady environment. Maidenhair Ferns are perfect for an English countryside garden or as an indoor plant, placed in a bright but indirectly lit corner.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern or Nephrolepis exaltata is a popular indoor fern, known for its lush, green foliage. It is a versatile and low-maintenance plant. This fern thrives both indoors and outdoors, as long as it is kept in a humid environment away from direct sunlight. The feathery fronds of the Boston Fern make it a wonderful addition to your home.

Staghorn Fern

These unique ferns are called Staghorn Ferns or Platycerium spp. What sets them apart is their unusual appearance, as they have irregularly shaped leaves resembling deer antlers. They can be mounted on a piece of wood or hung up as an air plant. Staghorn Ferns prefer indirect sunlight and moderate humidity levels, making them a great choice for adding texture and intrigue to a room.

Lady Fern

The beautiful Lady Fern, or Athyrium filix-femina, is an attractive fern with lacy, light green fronds. Hardy and adaptable, it grows well in a range of conditions, including damp and shaded areas. Lady Fern is a true woodland beauty that can grace both your garden and your home with elegance.

Tree Fern

Tree Ferns belong to multiple families, with Cyatheales being the most prominent. These majestic ferns can grow up to 15-20 feet tall, giving them a tree-like appearance. Their large, umbrella-like fronds provide a stunning tropical touch to gardens, while also creating a statement piece in a spacious living room.

Now that we’ve introduced you to these incredible ferns, we hope you’ve found inspiration to incorporate these plants into your surroundings, making your home or garden more captivating and distinctive.

Ferns in Different Ecosystems

Ferns are a diverse group of plants that can be found in various ecosystems worldwide. In this section, we will explore the characteristics of ferns in different environments, focusing on tropical ferns, temperate ferns, and water ferns. Let’s dive into these fascinating plants and learn what makes them unique.

Tropical Ferns

Tropical ferns are commonly found in rainforests and other humid environments. These ferns thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity levels. Some examples of tropical ferns include:

  • Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus): This fern grows in a rosette shape, with its fronds forming a “nest” at the center of the rosette.
  • Staghorn fern (Platycerium spp.): Staghorn ferns have unique, antler-shaped leaves covered in a fuzzy layer that helps retain moisture.
  • Maidenhair fern (Adiantum): Maidenhair ferns are delicate, featuring thin, wiry stems and fan-shaped leaflets.

Temperate Ferns

Temperate ferns can be found in cooler climates and deciduous forests. They are adapted to a range of conditions, including cold winters and dry spells. Some examples of temperate ferns include:

  • Lady fern (Athyrium spp.): Lady ferns are commonly found in North America and Europe. Their delicate, lacy fronds make them popular among gardeners.
  • Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum): Bracken ferns are known for their large, triangular fronds and their ability to grow in various habitats, such as meadows, woodlands, and heathlands.
  • Cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum): This fern is named for its cinnamon-colored, fertile fronds that emerge in the center of the plant.

Water Ferns

Water ferns are a unique group of plants that grow in or around water, making them well-suited for ponds and other aquatic environments. They come in various shapes and forms and provide valuable habitat for aquatic organisms. Some examples of water ferns include:

  • Water clover (Marsilea spp.): Water clover has a clover-like appearance, with its leaflets arranged in fours, making it easily recognizable.
  • Water spangle (Salvinia spp.): Water spangle is a floating fern, featuring small, round leaves that float on the water’s surface.
  • Azolla (Azolla spp.): The tiny, floating water fern Azolla is known for its ability to fix nitrogen, improving water quality and providing a valuable resource for aquatic life.

Now that we’ve explored the unique features of tropical, temperate, and water ferns, we hope you’ve gained a better understanding of the amazing diversity present within the world of ferns.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key characteristics of ferns?

Ferns are flowerless green plants with featherlike leaves known as fronds. They usually thrive in damp places, such as woods, ravines, and rocky crevices. Unlike other plants, ferns reproduce through spores instead of seeds.

How can I identify different species of ferns?

To identify different species of ferns, you can observe the shape, size, and arrangement of their fronds. The pattern of leaflets branching off from the single midrib can also provide clues about the species. Additionally, some ferns belong to the heterosporous category, producing two types of spores (large megaspores and small microspores), while others are homosporous, producing only one type of spore.

What are some common names for ferns?

Ferns can have various common names based on their appearance, habitat, or other characteristics. Some examples include maidenhair ferns, ostrich ferns, and Boston ferns. It’s important to note that plants labeled as “ferns,” such as asparagus ferns, may not be true ferns if they reproduce by seeds.

How are ferns classified by order and genus?

Ferns belong to the vascular plant division known as Pteridophyta. They are further classified into classes, orders, families, genera, and species based on their morphological traits, such as frond structure, spore types, and sporangia (the structures where spores are produced). For example, the Pillwort fern belongs to the small group of heterosporous ferns and has a unique sporangia arrangement.

What is the most popular fern variety?

One of the most popular fern varieties is the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), often used as a decorative indoor plant due to its graceful, arching fronds and ease of cultivation. This fern’s popularity also stems from its ability to adapt well to various indoor environments and effectively remove pollutants from the air.

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