Sword fern looks like Boston fern.

This is not the native Western sword fern of forested and riparian regions here on the West Coast. This sword fern, Nephrolepis cordifolia, is native to Northeastern Australia, Southeastern Asia and Hawaii. It is naturalized in many regions beyond its natural range, and is considered an invasive exotic species in some regions. Its resiliency and reliability are appreciated in local gardens.

If it resembles the popular houseplant, Boston fern, it is because this sword fern is of the same genus. It just happens to prefer to be out in a garden rather than inside a home. Much or even most of the light green foliage stands more upright, rather than cascading from pots or elevated planters. Foliage of mature plants can get almost three feet high, with an even broader horizontal reach.

In fact, sword fern is notorious for sneaking around the garden and spreading wider than just a few feet. It is not particularly aggressive about. It creeps slowly but steadily until someone eventually notices that it has gotten a bit too prolific. Their abundant runners are wiry and strangely hairy, and produce small round tubers. Foliage can be yellowish if not watered enough in sunny situations.


10 thoughts on “Sword Fern

  1. I have had that experience with a Sword Fern. I was given two of them with just a few fronds on each. They sat nicely in a bed for a couple of years and then…I pull them up yearly when it is cold out and the snakes are moving slow.

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    1. Yes, I remember that it is classified as an invasive exotic species there. Although invasive here, I believe that it is easier to contain. However, in Los Angeles, it is impossible to eradicate it once it gets into the canopy of a tall Canary Island date palm.


    1. It is, but it can be a bit too prolific. I tend to keep it contained because I do not want it to get away. In Los Angeles, it is sometimes seen growing wild and sloppily within the canopies of Canary Island date palms, where no one can reach it.

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    1. Perhaps I should not have gotten a picture of such an exemplary specimen. Most are neither as shiny, nor as rich green. I happen to like them, but I find that the foliage can be rather yellowish.

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