Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) was discovered by Andre Muchaux, a French botanist and explorer who traveled extensively through the Southeast in the latter part of the eighteenth century.
This lovely evergreen fern grows throughout the forest, but is somewhat partial to areas that have been disturbed. You can predict where you will find it: on the edges of logging roads, around overturned tree stumps, and on eroded embankments. Sewanee botany professor emeritus George Ramseur has suggested this is because the spores of Christmas fern need to be on mineral soil in order to germinate.
Christmas fern probably got its name because it is one of the few ferns that are still green at this time of year. We also like to point out that each little leaflet is shaped like Santa’s sleigh – or like a Christmas stocking, depending on the angle at which you hold it.