Southern Wood Fern - Southern Shield Fern - Florida Wood Fern
Louisiana Wood Fern
Dryopteris ludoviciana
- (Kunze) Small
Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern) Family

The Southern Wood Fern (also known as Southern Shield Fern) is a US southerner (ludoviciana means Louisiana in botanese) that can be found in various environments, especially those with a limestone influence. However, while it needs neither, it achieves its greatest beauty when situated in a moist to wet area. When happy the shiny semi-evergreen fronds can reach 4 feet in height.

The plant is an evergreen native perennial fern that occurs in the southeastern portion of Alabama and is most often found in bald cypress swamps, around lime sinks and caves, and along small to medium streams. It is a perennial from a creeping rhizome.

The leaves (fronds) are dimorphic (of two shapes). The fertile and sterile fronds differ in size and shape. The fertile fronds are more upright while the sterile ones tend to recline. The fertile ones can be up to three feet in length while the sterile ones are about half that size. The pinnae (divisions of the leaf) are narrower in the fertile fronds than in the sterile ones, and the overall outline of the fertile frond is narrower. The lower portion of the rachis (stalk of the leaf) is covered in papery scales. These scales are light brown in color.

The related Log Fern (Dryopteris celsa (W. Palmer) Knowlton) occurs within the range of Southern Wood Fern and differs in having scales on the rachis that are darker in color, the sterile and fertile leaves are not dimorphic, and it usually grows on drier sites. It is a very vigorous plant that can be identified by the malformed spores it produces.

This plant is generally available from native plant nurseries, as it does well in a domestic environment and in places where few other plants will grow.

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