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Common Name : Common Male Fern or Male Fern
Habitat : Dryopteris filix-mas is one of the most common ferns of the temperate Northern Hemisphere, occurring throughout much of Europe, Asia, and North America. It favours damp shaded areas and is common in the understory of woodlands, but is also found in shady places on hedge-banks, rocks, and screes. It is much less abundant in North America than in Europe.
Dryopteris filix-mas is an evergreen Fern growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate. The half-evergreen leaves have an upright habit and reach a maximum length of 1.5 m, with a single crown on each rootstock. The bipinnate leaves consist of 20-35 pinnae on each side of the rachis. The leaves taper at both ends, with the basal pinnae about half the length of the middle pinnae. The pinules are rather blunt and equally lobed all around. The stalks are covered with orange-brown scales. On the abaxial surface of the mature blade 5 to 6 sori develop in two rows. When the spores ripen in August to November, the indusium starts to shrivel, leading to the release of the spores.
This species hybridises easily with Dryopteris affinis (Scaly Male Fern) and Dryopteris oreades (Mountain Male Fern).
Prefers an acid to neutral soil, succeeding in ordinary fertile soil in a shady position. Succeeds in poor soils. Succeeds in full sun but grows best in a shady position with only 2 – 3 hours sun per day. Tolerates a pH range from 4.5 to 7. Dislikes heavy clay. Prefers a good supply of water at its roots but succeeds in dry shade and tolerates drought when it is established. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c, the plant remains evergreen in the milder areas of Britain. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer. An aggregate species. There are many named forms, selected for their ornamental value. Special Features: Attractive foliage, North American native, Wetlands plant, Attracts butterflies, There are no flowers or blooms.
Spores – can be sown at any time of the year in a greenhouse. Surface sow on a sterilised compost and keep moist, possibly by placing the pot in a plastic bag. Germinates in 1 – 3 months at 20°c. Pot up small clumps of the plants when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse until large enough to plant out. Division in spring. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.
Edible Uses: …..Young fronds – cooked. A flavour resembling asparagus, broccoli and artichokes. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. The rhizomes can be eaten raw or cooked. They were eaten raw as part of a regime for losing weight.
Dryopteris filix-mas is one of the most effective of all “worm herbs,” male fern root, or the oleo-resin it yields, is a specific treatment for tapeworms. It acts by paralyzing the muscles of the worm, forcing it to relax its hold on the gut wall. Provided that the root is taken along with a nonoily purgative like scammony or black hellebore, it will flush out the parasites. The roots are added to healing salves for wounds and rubbed into the limbs of children with rickets. It is also good for sores, boils, carbuncles, swollen glands and epidemic flu. It inhibits bleeding of a hot nature and is combined with cedar leaves for uterine bleeding. With other alteratives like honeysuckle, forsythia and dandelion it treats toxic blood conditions. Fern tincture should be prepared in new batches every year.
The root was used, until recent times, as an anthelmintic to expel tapeworms, but has been replaced by less toxic and more effective drugs. The anthelmintic activity has been claimed to be due to flavaspidic acid, a phloroglucinol derivative. The plant is sometimes referred to in ancient literature as Worm Fern.
Dryopteris filix-mas is also grown as an ornamental fern in gardens.A compost of fern leaves is very beneficial on tree seed beds, aiding germination. The ashes of the plant are rich in potash and has been used in making soap and glass. An effective ground cover plant. Although it is usually deciduous, its decaying fronds make a good weed-suppressing mulch in the winter. Space the plants about 60cm apart each way. The roots contain about 10% tannin.
Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen, Woodland garden.
Known Hazards : Although no reports for this species is found, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. The fresh plant contains thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase. However, there have been reports for other species of ferns suggesting that even cooked fronds can have a long term harmful effect. Some caution is therefore advised.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider