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7 Native Ferns of Kentucky

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Broad Beech Ferns on forest floor

Ferns are a fascinating group of plants that have been around for millions of years and have evolved to thrive in various environments.

In Kentucky, there are several native fern species that not only offer unique beauty but also play an important role in the state's ecology.

In this post, we'll introduce you to seven fascinating fern varieties that thrive in the state's climate and offer unique foliage to any shaded garden.

Whether you're a passionate gardener, a nature enthusiast, or simply curious to learn more about these ancient plants, read on to discover the wonders of the native ferns of Kentucky.

Native Ferns of Kentucky

Kentucky is home to many native ferns. In addition to their beauty and ornamental value, these ferns are also commonly deer and rabbit resistant, making them an excellent option for gardeners looking to protect their plants. Consider picking some up from your local native nursery.

For even more information on Kentucky native ferns, we highly recommend the book "Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky." It's an invaluable source of information. (#Promotion)

1. Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) is a delicate and elegant species native to all regions of Kentucky. Its distinct fan-shaped fronds and dark, wiry stems make it a standout addition to any garden. As the cold months of winter approach, its leaves naturally wither and fall away for the season. While this fern requires consistent moisture and shade to thrive, its stunning appearance makes it a popular choice for plant enthusiasts.

Maidenhair Fern plant info

2. Sensitive Fern

Sensitive Fern

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) is a resilient species that thrives in damp soil and partial shade, making it an ideal choice for woodland landscapes. Gardeners are drawn to its distinctive appearance, characterized by fronds that resemble delicate green fingers. With the ability to propagate through underground rhizomes and spores, it gradually forms a lush ground cover over time.

Sensitive Fern plant info

3. Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), named for the cinnamon-like color of its spore-bearing structures, is a striking and unique addition to any garden. Native to all regions of Kentucky, although rarer in the Bluegrass, this fern is hardy and can tolerate a range of growing conditions. With its distinctive foliage and showy fronds, Cinnamon Fern is an eye-catching choice for creating a bold and beautiful garden display.

Cinnamon Fern plant info

4. American Royal Fern

American Royal Fern

American Royal Fern (Osmunda spectabilis), also known as Royal Fern, is a tall and stately species native to most regions of Kentucky. Its feathery fronds can reach heights of up to five feet, providing an elegant addition to a shaded landscape. During autumn, its lush foliage takes on a striking red-brown hue, adding a beautiful touch of color to the surrounding scenery.

American Royal Fern plant info

5. Broad Beech Fern

Broad Beech Fern

Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera) is a native species throughout Kentucky. Its delicate and lacy fronds, which can grow up to two feet long, give it a distinctive and ornamental appearance. In the fall, the fronds turn pale yellow as it begins to die back with the arrival of winter.

Broad Beech Fern plant info

6. Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is a rugged and versatile species, making it one of the most popular evergreen ferns. Its dark, glossy fronds provide a year-round splash of green and are lovely in winter when other plants have gone dormant. Christmas Fern is also known for its ability to grow in various soils and conditions, making it a popular choice for novice and experienced gardeners.

Christmas Fern plant info

7. New York Fern

New York Fern

New York Fern (Amauropelta noveboracensis) is a soft and deciduous fern found throughout Kentucky and the northeastern United States. Its lush, green fronds and distinctive shape make it a popular choice for those looking to add a natural elegance to their garden. In addition, New York Fern is easy to care for and can thrive in various growing conditions, making it a versatile and low-maintenance option for outdoor gardens.

New York Fern plant info


Kentucky is home to a diverse range of fern species that are not only beautiful but also play an essential role in the ecosystem.

By incorporating native ferns into our gardens, we can support local plant biodiversity and create stunning landscapes.

We hope this guide has inspired you to explore the world of Kentucky's native ferns and appreciate their unique qualities. For more garden ideas, visit our article on native landscaping plants.


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