tassel fern is from Japan and the Koreas, but
looks so at home in a woodland garden with other
tassel fern offers rare beauty, form and texture in the
landscape, and everyone with a woodland garden should
put this at the top of their list. Mention landscape
ferns and most of us think about those that retreat
under the mulch and soil line once freezing weather
arrives. But the tassel fern known botanically as
Polystichum polyblepharum gives us a lush evergreen
presence even in winter.
is so adaptable here you would argue it has to be
native, but indeed it native to Japan and Korea. It is
cold hardy to zone 5 and yet can thrive in
filtered-light areas in zone 9. Like many ferns, it does
need moist, fertile, organic-rich soil that is well
drained. Those of you with the roving deer population
can celebrate the fact that this one is not on their
hard as Polystichum polyblepharum is to spell or
pronounce, those of us who are horticulturists find
describing it to be equally challenging. I thought I was
the only one until I read Tony Aventís humorous
description in the online version of his Plant Delights
Nursery catalogue. Here he points out the species name
polyblepharum actually means many eyelashes.
Web site compares this fernís form to that of a
shuttlecock, while others call it vase-shaped. These are
certainly correct, but I have a different description.
When older, unattractive fronds are kept pruned, an
established, 3-foot-wide or wider clump can have a 4- to
5-inch trunk, making it look like a cycad or sago palm.
I have seen several that even remind me of a dwarf tree
fern but with decidedly different fronds.
plant gets its name from the way young fronds, called
crosiers, unfurl and bend backward, drooping in a tassel
form before flattening out. The evergreen fronds are a
shiny dark green, creating an almost waxy appearance.
of my favorite spots at the Coastal Georgia Botanical
Gardens finds three clusters of them growing underneath
a 10-foot-tall Henry anise tree with its glorious
coral-colored blossoms dangling downward like ornaments.
In other areas we have them in close proximity to
I was hosting Southern Gardening TV news segments, I had
the opportunity to film in a wonderful garden where the
Japanese tassel fern was used among large rocks and
partnered with the autumn fern. In another place it was
planted along a topical looking trail with fancy-leafed
hostas, elephant ears and bananas, which created a
sensational contrast of texture.
are like that, they bring the woodland or shade garden
to life like few other plants can and look right at home
in the tropical-style garden. As you visit local garden
centers this spring, keep your eyes open for not only
the native ferns but the exquisite tassel fern.