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Athyrium (filix-femina)

Tara Luna
USDI NPS - Glacier National Park
West Glacier, Montana 59936
(406) 888-7835

Family Scientific Name: Dryopteridaceae
Family Common Name: Wood Fern family
Scientific Name: Athyrium filix-femina L. (Roth)
Common Name: Lady fern
Species Code: ATHFIL
Ecotype: Cedar/Devil's Club habitat, understory species, Glacier National Park, Flathead Co, MT.
General Distribution: A. filix-femina is a circumboreal species, common in moist forests, meadows, and swamps from lowland to mid-montane elevations.
Propagation Goal: plants
Propagation Method: seed
ProductType: Container (plug)
Stock Type: 3 L container
Time To Grow: 1 Years
Target Specifications: Stock Type: Container sporophyte<br> Height: 45 cm, 7 mature fronds<br> Caliper: n/a<br> Root System: Fully developed rhizomatous root mass in containers.
Propagule Collection: An indusium is present; collect fronds when indusium begins to lift and spore color is tan. Fronds ares collected in late August.
Propagule Processing: Fronds are placed in a room without air movement,spore surface down on butcherpaper. Spores will appear as a fine dust on the paper after several days of drying. Collect spores from the surface of paper and surface sow in sterilized flats filled with sterile, finely milled sphagnum peat moss that has been moistened with distilled water.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Water spores with distilled water and seal flats with clear plastic wrap to seal in moisture and prevent fungal contamination. Place flats under 60 watt soft incandescent lights set at 12 hour per day illumination. Germination of spores will occur after 15 days. The thread like germ filaments can be seen with the aid of a microscope and will appear as a fine green threads on the surface of the medium. A constant temperature of 20 C to 25C should be maintained throughout the growth of the prothalli.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
Greenhouse and outdoor nursery growing facility.
Sowing/Planting Technique: Surface sow spores evenly by hand using sterile gloves or other sterilized sowing implement. Spores require light for germination. Sowing flats immediately after sowing.
Establishment Phase: Establishment Phase: Spore germinate 10 to 15 days after sowing. The heart shaped prothalli continue to grow for 6 to 8 weeks. Examination of the prothalli under a microscope will reveal the presence of the reproductive structures; the antheridia (male) and archegonia (female), located along the margins and notch of the prothalli. At this stage, it is critical to maintain a thin film of water over the surface of the prothalli for fertilization to occur. It is critical to maintain sterile conditions during germination and establishment. Trays must be inspected for fungal contamination on a regular basis. If fungal contamination occurs, remove infected portions of the medium and treat trays with a highly diluted (1/4 recommended rate)fungicide drench. Treat with dilute fungicide only if prothalli are well developed. Reseal flats immediately and water only with distilled water.
Once sporophytes appear, clear plastic is removed from the trays and asceptic conditions are no longer necessary.
Length of Establishment Phase: 2 to 3 months
Active Growth Phase: Appearance of sporophytes occurred 3 months after spore germination. Individual plants are transplanted from flats to pots when they are 2 inches tall. After establishment in the greenhouse, they are moved to the outdoor shadehouse in late spring. Plants are fertilized bi-weekly with 20-20-20 liquid NPK. Plants are root tight 8 months after germination.
Length of Active Growth Phase: 8 months
Hardening Phase: Plants are fertilized with 10-20-20 liquid NPK at 200 ppm in early fall; pots are leached with water. Plants are watered before winterization.
Length of Hardening Phase: 4 weeks
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Total Time to Harvest: 1 year
Harvest Date: September
Storage Conditions: Overwinter in outdoor shadehouse under insulating foam and snow.
Length of Storage: 5 months
Other Comments: Plants have been held successfully for two years in 800 m l(4.5" )and 3L (1 gallon) containers in the nursery. Root mass is extensive and rhizomatous, and quickly fills containers.
Nursery grown plants produced spore bearing fronds 2 years after germination.
Vegetative Propagation Method: Rhizome Divisions
Treatments: Rhizomes are split down the center axis with knife, cut into 20 cm lengths.
Rooting %: Sporophytes can be divided 1 year after establishment.
References: Flora of the Pacific Northwest, Hitchcock and Cronquist, Univ. of Washington Press, 7th printing, 1990.
Ferns to Know and Grow, Foster, F.G., Timber Press, 1984.
Glacier Park Native Plant Nursery Propagation Records, unpublished.


Luna, Tara; Evans, Jeff; Wick, Dale; Hosokawa, Joy. 2008. Propagation protocol for production of Container (plug) Athyrium filix-femina L. (Roth) plants 3 L container; USDI NPS - Glacier National Park West Glacier, Montana. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2021/04/11). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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