As far as the eye can see, luscious green ferns adorn, as precious jewels, the grounds of my home.
Feathery, light to the touch, broad in stature, exquisite to behold; ferns are a hardy, prolific native inhabitant of the Pacific Northwest; as plentiful and dominant to the forest as sand is to the beach. Though not of any significant economic importance, ferns are like priceless pearls, you could get along without them but the world is a better place because of them.
Ferns have been used in the past for medicinal purposes and sustenance (the Northwest Indians were known to have eaten the rhizome part of a fern when food was scarce) and are also being studied as an agent in reversing contaminated soil.¹ They provide shade for wee creatures and a castle for insects as well as a great year-round ground cover.
The majority of ferns residing on my property are Sword Ferns or polystichum munitum. They are evergreen ; have large, dark green fronds that reach heights of nearly 6 ft (see photo above); radiate their intricate circular nests atop a round base, produce light yellow spores and live up to two years before turning.²
The Mountain Beaver, a pestilence to any natural fern setting, devours them unabated. I have encouraged these little creatures of doom, to abandon their current habitat and go elsewhere. Since that departure and with loving care, my ferns are now growing unencumbered and uneaten! They have matured into gigantic guardians of their domain.**
I’m smittened by the Sword Fern: its charm, natural beauty, multitude and longevity. To coexist with it in my world is beyond fortuitous.
****Sword Ferns, though gorgeous in every way (like my plentiful rhododendrons ,) require a lot of maintenance when they shed their old fronds. But really, what in life doesn’t require hard work to make it your pride and joy? Absolutely nothing.