Christmas Fern – Polystichum Acrosthichoides: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Evergreen Fern of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

We have a few edible and medicinal ferns in central Ontario, although ostrich fern is the most popular for fiddleheads. Oh, Merry Christmas fern!

This is going out December 24th – happy holidays, folks!

Christmas fern (polystichum acrosthichoides) may be common in deciduous or mixed woods around Haliburton, Ontario, usually in damp hummus. It’s this areas only polystichum spp. Sword fern on the west coast is related. I don’t see xmas fern much, so I am not sure how common it is decades post Haliburton Flora being compiled.

Christmas Fern - Polystichum Acrosthichoides
Christmas Fern – Polystichum Acrosthichoides

Edible Uses of Christmas Fern

The Christimas fern/ polystichum spp. fiddleheads can be eaten same as ostrich fern. It’s recommended to boil them 10 min in 2 changes of water to remove any toxins.

Many ferns contain known carcinogens. Most of the edible ones have lookalikes, so like mushrooms it’s extra wise to take a lot of time to properly ID and research. This one is harder to ID as a fiddlehead versus when the fronds are out!

Medicinal Uses of Christmas Fern

Christmas fern is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Astringent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes astringent uses similar to heal-all, but so many other plants are preferred for this.

Alternative Uses of Christmas Dagger

If you run into stinging nettle in the fall, you can rub the xmas ferns spores on your skin to stop the sting. I haven’t tried this to confirm.

Christmas fern
Christmas fern (Polystichum acrosthichoides)

Growing Polystichum Acrosthichoides

Christmas fern is most easily bought ready to plant. It likes well drained hummus rich soil. You can plant it along a bank for erosion control. Multiple plants are recommended to start. It’s not a spreader like ostrich fern, but each plant should form a clump.

Some of the fronds, specifically the sterile fronds, will still be green at Christmastime. Hence the name. Although they do flatten after the first hard frost.

All of our winter themed plants this month have a winter ornamental element, though only this and wintergreen are named for it. Partridge-berry is named after the grouse. I suppose if we had a native pear tree I’d of covered it this month too. Oh well!

Have a happy New Year too!


Many ferns contain known carcinogens and can be hard to tell apart.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

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