Southern Shield Fern



Botanical Name:  Thelypteris kunthii

Common Name:  Southern Shield Fern, Wood Fern, River Fern, Kunth’s Maiden Fern, Normal Shield Fern

Description:  Southern Shield Fern is a beautiful Florida native, commonly found in the wilds of the Peninsula and Panhandle, though rarely in the Keys. It’s been verified in all but five of Florida’s 67 counties.

The gracefully arching fronds of this fern are lime to medium-green in color and grow 2-4′ tall and wide. The fronds reach in all directions from clusters of stalks occurring at intervals along the rhizome. The foliage is almost twice cut and the pinnae taper to a point. The fronds take on a bronze cast as winter approaches. Is a deciduous fern. Southern Shield fern can add texture to a shade garden throughout the year and is great for wetland and water garden habitat. It prefers shady, moist habitats — woodlands, limestone sinks, riverbanks, and ditches. Likes to grow in loam, lime rock, sand soils. Its native habitat is mesic hammocks, shallow swamps and swamp edges, floodplains, limerock, concrete, ditches. Is not considered drought tolerant, so give it supplemental water during long periods of drought. It reproduces by spores.

Tolerant of occasional/brief salt water inundation such as can occur in storm surges. Some tolerance to salty wind but not direct salt spray.

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

Plant Lore:  The Seminoles used southern shield to treat insanity, as they did a number of ferns. They also used it as an orthopedic aid to treat weakness in the limbs and neck and something they called old paint woman sickness. A boiled concoction was used to clean and heal open cuts.

Florida Hardiness Zones 8 -11


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