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MALE FERN Dryopteris filix-mas & LADY FERN Athyrium filix-femina

These are probably the most common in this area and popular in gardens. Telling them apart though is another matter. The Wildlife Trusts website attempts to help us :

The male-fern is one of a number of similar species, including buckler-ferns and Lady-fern, which are difficult to tell apart. Male-fern fronds are separated into tapering leaflets, deeply divided and coming out from the main stem in opposite pairs.

Graham Rice writing in Gardner's World magazine (May 2024. see reference below) refers to early descriptions. While not really helpful they are of interest. Edward Step's book of 1908, "Wayside and Woodland Ferns" notes that the Male Fern has a more robust look - a commanding appearance as it towers over the lesser plants... and is more virile looking. while the Lady Fern displays female grace and delicacy.

Graham Rice gives a more acceptable explanation : According to botanists, the male fern gets its name from the fact that its reproductive structures are visible while those of the Lady Fern are concealed.You would need the skills or a botanist and a magnifying glass to really tell though.

MALE FERN : Dryopteris filix-mas

The male-fern is a large, clump-forming fern that is found in a variety of habitats.  Fresh green fronds unfurl from scaly, brown, underground rhizomes that push through the soil in mid-spring. These grow in height in the summer to form impressive stands, but will die back later in the year. [Wildlife Trusts].

LADY FERN : Athyrium filix-femina

Much as the Male Fern, but with the differences already noted above.

RICE, GRAHAM, Gardener's World magazine, May 2024. Page 15, 

WIKIPEDIA : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athyrium_filix-femina

WILDLIFE TRUSTS : https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/ferns-and-horsetails/male-fern


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