Sword Fern – Polystichum munitum


Another classic plant in the Pacific Northwest is the sword fern. These ferns are extremely versatile and resilient. They thrive in moist soil and almost full shade, but can also survive in full shade and low nutrient soils. The deep roots become fairly resistant to drought once established.

Sword ferns are great for lining cooking pits and cooking food. Some consider sword fern (in particular, the roots) a starvation food. Although the rhizomes can be roasted, steamed, or boiled, they are hard to dig and clean. The spores can be used to treat burns and other minor abrasions, including the itch caused by stinging nettles.

A fern is a member of a group of vascular plants that have neither seeds nor flowers but reproduce via spores. A frond is a large, divided leaf commonly found on ferns. People of the Swinomish Tribe chewed and swallowed curled young leaves to ease a sore throat. Up to 1/4th of the fronds can be removed without endangering the plant, but they develop slowly. It may take five years before the plant can be recognizable as a sword fern.
Sword ferns are long-lived plants that can reach four feet tall and seven feet wide. Make sure to keep an eye out for sword ferns because they stay green all year. As you can see, they are extremely distinct and a stable of Western Washington!

Learn more about sword ferns:



US Forest Service


SHADOW Intern Gabrielle (Gabi) Esparza