Sword fern, Wild Boston fern
Nephrolepis exaltata

Landscape Uses:

Primarily recommended for natural landscapes and habitat restorations. Also a spreading groundcover in shady areas. Identified by Fair Child Tropical Botanic Garden as a native that does especially well in shade in this brochure.

Ecological Restoration Notes:

Grown by one or two native plant nurseries in South Florida.
Large herbaceous fern.
Typically 3-6 feet in height. Spreading from horizontal stems (stolons) and forming large masses.
Growth Rate:
Florida, Louisiana and Texas south to the Monroe County Keys (where very rare); West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Moist hammocks and swamps.
Moist to seasonally wet, well-drained to poorly-drained sandy, limestone, or organic soils, with humusy top layer; or epiphytic on Sabal palmetto.
Nutritional Requirements:
Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.
Salt Water Tolerance:
Low; does not tolerate flooding by salt or brackish water.
Salt Wind Tolerance:
Low; salt wind may burn the leaves.
Drought Tolerance:
Moderate; generally requires moist soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.
Light Requirements:
Light shade.
Flower Color:
Flower Characteristics:
There are no flowers; the plants reproduce by spores.
Flowering Season:
All year.
Inconspicuous spores.
Wildlife and Ecology:
Horticultural Notes:
Can be grown from divisions or spores.
It can be aggressive in the garden, and some caution is urged. Similar to the invasive exotic Asian sword fern, but with thin, light brown scales at the base of the fronds instead of wide, dark brown scales; also similar to the exotic invasive tuberous sword fern, which has strongly overlapping pinnae (leaflets).

Susan Trammell
George D. Gann
George D. Gann
George D. Gann
George D. Gann
In habitat, Everglades National Park, Florida
Keith A. Bradley