Greek: drys, oak + pteron, a wing, which describes the shape of the pinnae, but the word pteris was used by the ancient Greeks for all ferns.
Rhizome: suberect to erect, nonclathrate scales, no hairs, though occasionally glandular hairs.
Frond: deciduous or evergreen, usually monomorphic.
Stipe: grooved, scaly, vascular bundles: 2 primary and 1-5 secondary, all in a c-shaped pattern facing the top of the blade/stipe.
Blade: 1-4 pinnate, deltate-ovate to lanceolate, herbaceous to somewhat leathery, linear to ovate scales below, absent above.
Pinnae: catadromous to anadromous, costae grooved above, continuous from rachis to costae, segments margins entire, crenate, or serrate, spinulose or not, veins free, forked.
Sori: round, in 1 row between midrib and margin, indusium: reniform, at a sinus, sporangia: brownish.
Dryopteris is characterized by a kidney-shaped indusium over a round sorus, continuous grooves on the upper side of stipe, rachis, and costa, scaly stipes, lack of hairs, and vascular bundles in a c-shape. There are no simple or pinnatifid Dryopteris, and only one 1-pinnate species, D. sieboldii; otherwise, the range in division is 1-pinnate-pinnatifid to 3-pinnate-pinnatifid. It is similar in many respects to Polystichum, the latter differing in the umbella-shaped indusium and lack of continuity in the grooves between rachis and costa.