Ferns in the Mountains

Ferns are beautiful, lacy, green, delicate, natural… pick your adjective.     Many are native to our Highlands Cashiers Plateau and can provide a great natural addition to your landscape. They are said to impart a calm grace, yet they are tough, durable and adaptable.

I became fascinated with ferns after moving to North Carolina from California in 1998, and must confess that I was not aware of them until I moved here.

The Hay-scented Fern figures prominently as the Meadows Mountain Realty logo, both in its pale green summer colors and its golden tan fall tones. An “invasive” species, this one is easy to grow, but can take over your garden, and I am having some difficulty removing my excess plants. it spreads by underground root rhizomes or runners. This fern grows in “drifts” which appropriately describes the pattern. It can be used to hold soil on sunny slopes, but you must be  conscious of its growth habit.

This list presents the ferns I have liberated from the wild and transplanted successfully in my gardens.


Christmas Fern  Grows in sun and shade, evergreen
Cinnamon Fern Does well in sun and shade
Interrupted Fern Can accept more shade
Common Polypody Grows on rocks, evergreen
Hayscented Fern Spreading  Too easy
New York Fern Easy to grow in shady areas
Lady Fern Delicate -prone to insect damage
Ebony Spleenwort Very small fern, resembles Christmas fern, but seems to prefer dry areas
Broad Beech Fern Wooded shady areas
Marginal Wood Fern Near rocks
Evergreen Wood Fern Near wet rocks
Northern Maidenhair The most delicate in appearance, but a tough easy to grow fern
Bracken Really a weedy fern that grows in disturbed soil. Tall
Sensitive Fern Grows along roadsides
Cutleaf Grape Fern A strange little fern that appears late in the season, but lasts all winter
Rattlesnake fern Grows in shade under other plants and trees

If you wish to start growing ferns, but prefer not to capture them in the wild, they are available in most of our local nurseries.

There you will find many kinds of ferns, not all of which will survive our winters. If you want perennial ferns, it is important to ask the nursery personnel which ones will survive here. Remember that ferns have been on this planet for over 240 million years, and are found in all hemispheres, but they can be very selective about the environments they choose to accept.

For instance, my favorite is the Southern Maidenhair, but it has to be replaced each year.

The Autumn Fern, from Asia, is very hardy here, as is the Japanese Painted Fern. Both are notable for their unusual colors. the Autumn Fern is a reddish brown when it unfolds in the Spring, and the painted fern is an unusual bluish-gray color.

If you wish to explore the enchanted world of ferns, just Google Ferns. The images that come up on the Connecticut Botanical Society website  http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/ferns/index.html   are particularly useful, and The Brooklyn Botanic Garden paperback  Ferns..Wild Things Make a Comeback in the Garden   is a good practical handbook.

For more information about Highlands and Cashiers North Carolina, and for access to the Highlands/Cashiers NC MLS, contact Meadows Mountain Realty today, 828-526-1717 or email us today at info@bhhsmmr.com.

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