Site focus
   Navigating the site
   Why ferns are hard to identify
   Illustrated Glossary
   Flora of Australia
   Lower Vascular Plant Glossary
Hardy Fern Glossary
   Structure and Shape
   Blade Division
   Hairs and Scales
   Sori and Indusia
Major Fern Links

    Adiantum  Arachniodes
    Aspidotis  Asplenium
    Astrolepis  Athyrium
    Blechnum  Cheilanthes
    Cryptogramma  Cyrtomium
    Cystopteris  Dennstaedtia
    Deparia  Diplazium
    Dryopteris  Gymnocarpium
    Lygodium  Matteuccia
    Onoclea  Oreopteris
    Osmunda  Pellaea
    Phegopteris  Pleopeltis
    Polypodium  Polystichum
    Pteridium  Pteris
    Pyrrosia  Thelypteris
    Woodsia  Woodwardia


Taxonomy, Description

  • General
    • Scandinavian Ferns, Benjamin Øllgaard and Kirsten Tind, Rhodos, Copenhagen, 1993. The most satisfying of all the fern books: rigorous descriptions, accurate observations, technical line drawings, and detailed botanical illustrations, many reproduced here. Its only deficiency is the number of species.
    • Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns, Sue Olsen, Timber Press, Portland, 2007. The 1000 ferns here constitute less than 10% of the fern flora, but this book contains 99% of temperate garden ferns. Abundantly illustrated with 700 excellent photographs and good descriptions, this has become the resource of first resort. Disclosure: I helped proof it.
    • Flora of North America, Volume 2. This was the primary resource for nomenclature with one major exception. The treatment of the Dryopteridaceae sensu latissimo, was abandoned in favor of a division recognized in Europe and Asia: separation into Dryopteridaceae sensu stricto and the Woodsiaceae. This is also more useful, incidentally, in pointing out similarities among ferns. The descriptions in FNA are more thorough than most flora, but there are still omissions and errors; FNA needs revision in the Pteridophtyta, but there is no sign it will get it.
    • Ferns and Fern Allies of the United States and Canada, David B. Lellinger, Smithsonian, Washington, 1985. Descriptions technical, requiring a glossary, no line drawings, one or two photos of each species, coverage complete, including keys.
    • Ferns and Fern Allies of Canada, William J. Cody and Donald M. Britton, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, 1989. Descriptions are accessible, sometimes too brief, embellished with side comments, line drawings diagnostic – many reproduced here, no photos.
    • Flora of Japan. Indispensible, substantial descriptions, no illustrations. Sometimes appears to be a revision of Flora of Japan - Pteridophyta, J. Ohwi, 1957, English Edition, Smithsonian, Washington, 1965, but other times Ohwi has more.
    • Flora of China – draft, in English. Poor English, but who's squawking? No illustrations. The three pteridophyte volumes are still unpublished (as of March, 2010).
    • The Ferns of Britain and Ireland, C.N. Page, Cambridge University Press, UK, 1997. Descriptions comprehensive with attention to details omitted elsewhere, language accessible, illustrations black & white images of herbarium specimens interspersed with a few photos.
    • How to Know the Ferns and Fern Allies, John Mickel, Wm. C. Brown Co., Dubuque, 1979. Particularly helpful keys, minimal jargon, diagnostic drawings, restricted to North America.
    • Les Fougères et plantes alliées de France et d'Europe occidentale, Rémy Prelli, Belin, Paris, 2001. Lots of keys, diagnostic drawings and photographs. The drawings of sori and indusia are first rate.
    • An Illustrated Fern Flora of the West Himalaya, S.P. Khullar, International Book Distributors, Dehra Dun, India, Volume I, 1994, Volume II, 2000. Meticulous descriptions, good generic treatments, diagnostic drawings, reproduction wanting, no photographs. The only account of many ferns; why so few introductions?
    • Flora of Australia, Volume 48, Ferns, Gymnosperms, and Allied Groups, Anthony E. Orchard, ed., Australian Biological Resources Study, Australia, 1998. Descriptions detailed, drawings and photos limited. Few Australian ferns are here on Hardy Fern Library, because few are hardy. However, even with the hardiness definition employed here, there ought to be more in cultivation, particularly from Tasmania.
    • The Flora of Taiwan, Volume 1 is available online (index at link) is not easy to navigate, but worth it, especially for the diagnostic drawings.
    • A Field Guide to the Ferns, Boughton Cobb, undated, but at least 40 years in print. This field guide to northeastern North America has lasted because the text coupled with Laura Louise Foster's drawings provides more diagnostic detail than other efforts.
    • Ferns to Know and Grow, F. Gordon Foster, Hawthorn Books, New York, 1964, later edition by Timber Press. Foster was an enthusiast and keen observer, the descriptions frequently containing details not found elsewhere.
  • Monographs
    • Adiantum
      The Genus Adiantum in Cultivation, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, Baileya, 17, 97-191, 1970. Keys, many line drawings, about 20 species, cultivars.
      Maidenhair Ferns in Cultivation, Christopher J. Goudey, Lothian Publishing, Melbourne, 1985. As the title says, focusing more on cultivation than description, at least twice the number of species in the preceding, photographs of each.
    • Cystopteris
      A Monographic Study of the Fern Genus Cystopteris, Robert F. Blasdell, Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club, Volume 21, No. 4, (1963). Treatment complete.
    • Dryopteris
      The Cultivated Species of the Fern Genus Dryopteris in the United States, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki and Kenneth A. Wilson, American Fern Journal, 89, 1-100, 1999. Fifty species in detail, line drawings.
    • Polystichum
      Systematics of Polystichum in Western North America, David Wagner, Pteridologia 1, American Fern Society, 1979. Technical discussion of relationships.
    • Woodsia
      A Monographic Study of the Fern Genus Woodsia, Donald F.M. Brown, Beihefte zur Nova Hedwigia, Heft 16 (1964). Complete except for W. intermedia, perhaps unknown to Brown.

Criteria for Inclusion Here: Hardiness, In Cultivation

  • Fern Grower's Manual, Barbara Joe Hoshizaki and Robbin C. Moran, Timber Press, Portland, 2001. The summaries of the genera are lucid, diagnostic. Most of the thousand line drawings are by Hoshizaki; staggering!
  • Ferns for American Gardens, John Mickel, Macmillan, New York, 1994. The one that got me going.
  • Lellinger, 1985, cited above, has cultivation comments on every species.
  • The Plantfinder's Guide to Garden Ferns, Martin Rickard, David & Charles, Devon, UK, also Timber Press, Portland, 2000. Focused on cultivation and cultivars, photographs and botanical illustrations seldom diagnostic, but superb.


  • World
    • See the Checklist under Synonymy below.
    • Den virtuella floran has world maps for many species. Follow the Latin links; the world maps on the individual species pages are labeled Norra halvklotet.
  • North America
    • This Canadian Biodiversity index has inexplicable, inconsequential errors, but leads to North American maps for many species.
    • The Flora of North America includes maps for every species, and there are direct links from each species page on this site.
  • Other Areas. Distribution maps can be found on the web for China, Japan, Scandinavia, and the UK, as well as many smaller jurisdictions, but individual countries, states, and provinces have not been linked.


  • Google made this site possible.
  • The illustrations of Kirsten Tind in the above-cited Scandinavian Ferns are used in many fern pages here.
  • Hardy Fern Libary is appreciative of the permission granted by Agriculture Canada for reproduction of the drawings of Valerie Fulford in Ferns and Fern Allies of Canada, cited above.
  • CalPhoto is a major resource, and one wishes there were comparable sites for other geographical areas. In these days of California insanity, you may be asked to contribute when you click to a California photo.
  • Ferns of Northeastern United States by Farida A. Wiley, 1936, also a Dover reprint, provided line drawings of vascular bundles – available no where else. I am indebted to Dorothy Plyler of Pennsylvania for this.


  • A Checklist of World Ferns provides just that, a checklist, online, but the CD-ROM, available via the web site, provides a comprehensive set of synonyms, literature citations, and distribution data.
  • The Lepidoptera and some other life forms site of Markku Savela has a good deal of synonymy and scattered images as a bonus. It will come as no surprise that each species entry also notes any moth or butterfly association.


  • A Modern Multilingual Glossary for Taxonomic Pteridology, David B. Lellinger, American Fern Society, 2002. This is the sine qua non for the subject.
Tom Stuart
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