UBC Botanical Garden has a diverse collection of about 100 different ferns and fern allies. These represent 26 separate genera in 13 families. More than 30 species in the collection are British Columbia natives.

Ferns and fern relatives are known as Pteridophytes. Unlike seed plants, ferns and their allies reproduce by spores. A spore is a specialized cell capable of developing into a new individual, either on its own or after fusion with another spore. The different groups of Pteridophytes are generally recognized on the basis of gross morphology (overall shape and physical features) as well as by the pattern of sporangia (spore-producing structures) that appear. The typical true fern produces sporangia in discrete clusters known as sori (singular sorus) on the undersides of the fronds (leaves). Fern allies, which includes the horsetails, quillworts, water clovers, club-mosses and spike-mosses, among others, have various, often cryptic (not easily seen) features that distinguish them. However, many have sporangia arranged in cone-like structures. The most prominent and familiar of the fern allies include the genus Equisetum, the horsetails, and the genus Lycopodium, the club mosses.

In ferns, the spore germinates and grows into a tiny leafy structure called a prothallus. Sperm and egg cells are produced on the prothallus and when they unite, the true fern structure begins to grow. While spores are somewhat resistant structures, sperm and egg cells are delicate and extremely short-lived. Both spore germination and movement of the swimming sperm to the egg on the prothallus can only take place in a film of water. This requirement generally restricts ferns to moist habitats, but a large number of fern species are also adapted to drier conditions. The apparent paradox is explained by rapid growth and spore dispersal coinciding precisely with the limited rainy season. Desert dwelling ferns also have small fronds that die back to a drought resistant crown when moisture is restricted.

The Garden has a range of both deciduous and evergreen ferns. Our largest evergreens are the chain ferns (genus Woodwardia), so named because the arrangement of sporangial cases on the back side of the fronds suggests links in a chain. Woodwardia fimbriata (giant chain fern) grows vase-like with leaves that can reach 1.7 m long. It is native to California and sparingly to the Pacific coast as far north as Texada Island. The equally interesting W. orientalis var. formosana (Formosan chain fern) is one of about fifteen species native to China. The Formosan chain fern has leaves that grow to 2 m long and that are viviparous, producing vegetative buds on the upper surface of the fronds, which produce roots and form new plants when they contact the ground.

At the other end of the scale, our smallest is the tiny Asian ribbon fern, Lepisorus thunbergianus. Normally epipetric (growing on rocks), its narrow strap-like evergreen leaves grow to only about 7 or 8 cm long. The plants were grown from spores collected at 3200 m elevation in Taiwan. Another epipetric fern is maidenhair spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes, which has delicate, pinnate fronds. It is native to both North America and Europe. The alpine water fern, Blechnum penna-marina is another tiny evergreen. It is a pretty, ground-hugging fern, native to southern South America, parts of Australia and some of the Pacific Islands. Like other Blechnum species, B. penna-marina has dimorphic fronds, the fertile, spore-bearing fronds deciduous and borne separately.


Asplenium (spleenworts)
  • Asplenium fissum
  • Asplenium scolopendrium
  • Asplenium septentrionale
  • Asplenium trichomanes (N)
  • Asplenium viride (N)


Athyrium (lady ferns)
  • Athyrium felix-femina (N)
  • Athyrium niponicum pictum

Blechnaceae (hard ferns)

Blechnum (hard ferns)
  • Blechnum chilense
  • Blechnum cycadifolium
  • Blechnum penna-marina                              
  • Blechnum penna-marina ‘Cristatum’
  • Blechnum penna-marina alpina
  • Blechnum spicant (N)
Woodwardia (chain ferns)
  • Woodwardia fimbriata (N)
  • Woodwardia orientalis formosana              
  • Woodwardia unigemmata


Cystopteris (bladder ferns)
  • Cystopteris dickieana
  • Cystopteris fragilis (N)
Gymnocarpium (oak ferns)
  • Gymnocarpium robertianum


Pteridium (bracken)
  • Pteridium aquilinum(N)


  • Arachniodes davalliaeformis
  • Arachniodes nipponica
  • Arachniodes
  • Cyrtomium fortunei
  • Cyrtomium lonchitoides
  • Cyrtomium macrophyllum
  • Cyrtomium macrophyllum tukusicola
Dryopteris (wood ferns)
  • Dryopteris crassirhizoma
  • Dryopteris cycadina
  • Dryopteris decipiens
  • Dryopteris erythrosora
  • Dryopteris erythrosora prolifica
  • Dryopteris expansa (N)
  • Dryopteris filix-mas
  • Dryopteris filix-mas‘Barnesii’
  • Dryopteris filix-mas ‘Furcans’
  • Dryopteris juxtaposita
  • Dryopteris marginalis
  • Dryopteris nigropaleacea
  • Dryopteris sieboldii
  • Dryopteris stewartii
  • Dryopteris sublacera
  • Dryopteris wallichiana
  • Dryopteris wallichiana(orange crozier selection)
  • Polystichum acrostichoides
  • Polystichum aculeatum
  • Polystichum lonchitis (N)
  • Polystichum makinoi
  • Polystichum mehrae
  • Polystichum monticola
  • Polystichum munitum (N)
  • Polystichum polyblepharum
  • Polystichum proliferum
  • Polystichum scopulinum (N)
  • Polystichum setiferum (N)
  • Polystichum stenophyllum
  • Polystichum xiphophyllum


Equisetum (horsetails)
  • Equisetum arvensis(weedy N)
  • Equisetum hyemale (N)
  • Equisetum fluviatile (N)
  • Equisetum telmateia (N)


Lycopodium (club mosses)
  • Lycopodium clavatum (N)
  • Lycopodium dendroideum (N)
  • Lycopodium obscurum obscurum
  • Lycopodium sitchense sitchense (N)


Matteuccia (ostrich fern)
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris(N)
Onoclea (sensitive fern)
  • Onoclea sensibilis


Osmunda (royal ferns)
  • Osmundastrum cinnamomeum


Lepisorus (ribbon ferns)
  • Lepisorus bicolor
  • Lepisorus thunbergianus
Polypodium (polypod ferns)
  • Polypodium amorphum(N)
  • Polypodium glycyrrhiza(N)
  • Polypodium hesperium(N)
  • Polypodium virginianum
Pyrrosia (felt ferns)
  • Pyrrosia lingua
  • Pyrrosia sheareri


Adiantum (maidenhair ferns)
  • Adiantum aleuticum (N)
  • Adiantum capillus-veneris(N)
  • Adiantum ´ tracyi
  • Adiantum venustum
  • Astrolepis sinuata
Cheilanthes (lip ferns)
  • Cheilanthes argentea
  • Cheilanthes alabamensis
  • Cheilanthes gracillima (N)
  • Cheilanthes lanosa
  • Cheilanthes lindheimeri
Cryptogramma (rock brakes)
  • Cryptogramma acrostichoides (N)
Notholaena (cloak ferns)
  • Notholaena marantae
Pellaea (cliff brakes)
  • Pellaea atropurpurea
  • Pellaea mucronata
  • Pellaea occidentalis simplex
  • Pellaea quadripinnata
Pentagramma (gold-back fern)
  • Pentagramma triangularis triangularis (N)


Phegopteris (beech ferns)
  • Phegopteris connectilis(N)


Woodsia (cliff ferns)
  • Woodsia glabella (N)
  • Woodsia ilvensis (N)
  • Woodsia oregana (N)
  • Woodsia scopulina(N)
  • Woodsia (evergreen alpine collection) (N)