People often ask us at the Fern Nursery to identify ferns, that they already have growing in their gardens, sometimes to help with their planting plans, and sometimes just for interests sake. Therefore as this seems to be a frequent need, we have provided these pages, to help those who, may not be able to visit us.
These pages should provide a rough guide to ferns likely to be found growing in British gardens. They are not however in any way comprehensive, and will only take you to the genetic name in most cases with any degree of certainty. It should though give you an idea of the ferns you have in your garden, and provide an idea of where to begin looking for more accurate information in reference works, (some recommendations below).
I recommended that you have a whole, mature, frond from your fern to hand before you start. Now look at the picture, then go follow the guides below.
Ferns which are always small and grow on walls.
If your fern has no fronds larger than 10 inches or 25cm long and grows only on walls or similar stony places, go to page 4.
Larger ferns which grow in the ground.
1 If your fern frond has a main stem, with simple leaves or lobes down each side, which do not themselves have smaller divisions, most like number one in the illustration, (at this stage it does not have to be a precise match) then go to page one.
2 If your frond has side leaves, which themselves have leaves or deep lobes on each side, but these lobes are not further divided, most like number two in the picture, ( technically fronds like this are called bipinnate meaning twice divided,) then go to Page two.
3 If your fern has divided leaves on the side branches of the fronds, (this need not be all over but may be only on the larger branches near the base of the frond), most like picture 3 Then go to page 3.
4 If your fern has simple fronds like those of number 4 and is growing outside. You will have Phyllitis scolopendrium, see also page four.
Please bear in mind that naming ferns is a very difficult thing, and these pages can only give a beginning. Therefore try below for more help. Here are some reference books that may help to take you further into the business of fern identification, when this simple guide is not enough.
Welsh Ferns, by G Hutchinson & B. A. Tomas, Published by The National Museum & Galleries, Cardiff. This is the best book on the wild ferns of all Britain despite the name.
The Plantfinders Guide To Garden Ferns, by Martin Rickard, published by David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon. The best modern book on garden ferns by far.
The New Naturalist Library/ Ferns, by C. N. Page. published by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. Good for all round information.