Day 203: Christmas Fern


I absolutely love ferns, but I have to admit I’m terrible at fern identification. The Christmas Fern, or Polystichum acrostichoides is one of the few varieties I can actually identify out in the woods. I’m sure many of you have seen these out in the wild, whether you knew what kind it was or not.

Most people know the fern as a nice garden ornamental. It’s easy to get started, requires very little sunlight, and generally does well on its own. Not many know this fern is also a medicinal plant.

In Cherokee traditional medicine the Christmas fern is used alongside several other species including the cinnamon fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum, the maidenhair fern, Adianthum pedatum, and others. These ferns are used alongside certain prayers in the curing of rheumatism. The opening up of the fern fronds symbolizes the opening up of the rheumatic hand. Internally the smashed, soaked roots are often taken as a febrifuge and diaphoretic. It’s also a powerful emetic, so be careful.

In Cherokee I’ve heard the plant called Yana Utsesta ᏯᎾ ᎤᏤᏍᏔ in several different sources, which means “bear’s bed”. I can’t see this fern out in the woods without imaging a big black bear asleep there on top of them.

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