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Wild Boston fern
Nephrolepis exaltata

Copyright by: George D. Gann
In habitat, Everglades National Park, Florida

General Landscape Uses: Primarily recommended for natural landscapes and habitat restorations. Also a spreading groundcover in shady areas.

Availability: Grown by one or two native plant nurseries in South Florida.

Description: Large herbaceous fern.

Dimensions: Typically 3-6 feet in height. Spreading from horizontal stems (stolons) and forming large masses.

Growth Rate: Moderate.

Range: Florida, Louisiana and Texas south to the Monroe County Keys (where very rare); West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes north to Indian River and Manatee counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Moist hammocks and swamps.

Soils: 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: N/A.

Flower Characteristics: There are no flowers; the plants reproduce by spores.

Flowering Season: All year.

Fruit: Inconspicuous spores.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from divisions or spores.

References: Miami-Dade County Landscape Manual (2005).

Comments: 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).

Copyright by: George D. Gann
In habitat, Everglades National Park, Florida

Copyright by: Keith A. Bradley

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: Susan Trammell

Other data on Nephrolepis exaltata available from:

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