Dixie Wood Fern

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Botanical Name:  Dryopteris x australis

Common Name:  Dixie Wood Fern, River Fern,

Description:  Beautiful fern for your shade to part shade area. Grows 4′ tall x 2′ wide. Surprisingly enough, it is deer resistant. This is a rare, naturally occurring native hybrid to the Southeast United State (see Fun Fact below for more info). The growth habit is dramatically upright with large, coarse, dark green, semi-evergreen fronds. This is a very structural fern for the moist woodland garden. Although Dryopteris x australis is very tolerant of dry sites, a nice damp piece of ground will produce really spectacular results. Due to the fact that this fern is practically sterile, propagation is limited to division of the clump.

This plant in 1-gallon containers is 1-2′ tall x 1′ wide.

Fun Fact: “Dryopteris ×australis is a semi-fertile hybrid of Dryopteris celsa and Dryopteris ludoviciana. This location is the type locality found by Edger T. Wherry in 1937. There are still several clusters of the fern at the sight. The hybrid is partially evergreen with the fertile portions being deciduous. In the summer it is a very handsome plant. The hybrid has some ability to reproduce by spores. I know of three sites for the hybrid. At all but one, there are no parent ferns present. At the site in Burke County, Georgia, Dryopteris ludoviciana is present.

Dryopteris celsa is a fertile hybrid between Dryopteris goldiana and Dryopteris ludovicianaD. goldiana is restricted to high elevations of the mountains and D. ludoviciana is a coastal plain species. It is speculated that the two species were compressed into each others range during Pleistocene glaciation. This is when hybridization most likely occurred to form D. celsa.

Today, D. celsa is an uncommon species in the southeastern U.S. It is increasingly rare in the coastal plain where it would encounter D. ludoviciana. It is unknown why D. ×australis is most often found without the parents. All the sites where I have seen D. ×australis are in wet swampy areas which is the preferred habitat for D. ludoviciana. It is likely that that species once lived further north.” — Alan Cressler

Hardiness Zones 5 – 9

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