Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)
The ancient Sword Fern is one of the most abundant of the Pacific Coast ferns. Its evergreen, toothed fronds are as much a signature of the Pacific Northwest as the damp, mossy forests where Polystichum munitum finds its home. This fascinating groundcover species produces spiraled “fiddleheads” in the spring, which unfurl into new fronds throughout the season.
Sword Fern prefer to be planted in partial to full shade and moist soil, although it is a hardy plant and can survive occasional dry periods once established. It has held traditional significance among native tribes of the Pacific Coast, as its leaves were once used to line pit ovens and berry-drying racks, and the rhizomes were dug up as an occasional food source. Sword Fern is known as “Pala-Pala Plant” in some Vancouver Island and Puget Sound languages because it was used in a children’s game. On a single breath, kids would pull as many leaflets off the fronds as they could, saying “pala” with each one.