From the Latin: filix, fern + femina, female or woman.
Rhizome: short-creeping, forming an asymmetric clump, stout, scaly.
Frond: 120 cm high by 30 cm wide, deciduous, new fronds all summer, monomorphic, blade/stipe ratio: more than 1:1 to 2:1.
Stipe: straw-colored above, base dark red-brown or black, swollen; in some forms very red, old stipes persistent, scales light to dark brown, linear- to ovate-lanceolate, 7--20 × 1--5 mm, vascular bundles: 2, curved, back-to-back, uniting to a U-shape above.
Blade: 2-pinnate-pinnatifid, less and more also seen, elliptic to lanceolate, apex acuminate (see discussion below), herbaceous, yellow-green to bright green, rachis , costae, and costules glabrous or with glands or hairs.
Pinnae: 20 to 30 pair, sessile to short-stalked, linear-oblong to lanceolate, apex acuminate; costae grooved above, V-shaped, continuous from rachis to costae to costules; margins serrate or lobed, blunt or acute at the tip; veins free, forking, not reaching the margin.
Sori: straight, sometimes hooked at the far end, or horseshoe-shaped, at the base of the segments, indusium: elongate, toothed, to a veinlet, sporangia: brownish-gray to dark brown or yellow, maturity: midsummer to early fall.
Dimensionality: sometimes the pinnae are perpendicular to the rachis, i.e., horizontal.
Habitat: meadows, thickets, woodland, swamps.
Distribution: North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia.
Hardy to -30°C, USDA Zone 4, but given the distribution, the source is likely important.
No more variable fern, as attested by several botanical and 200 horticultural forms, all of which are said to intergrade.
Polypodium filix-femina Linnaeus
Athyrium asplenioides Michaux
Athyrium filix-femina v. asplenioides Farwell
Athyrium filix-femina v. michauxii Farwell
Athyrium angustum Willdenow
Asplenium michauxii Sprengel