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Widespread, variable group of ferns. They usually grow in mosses on trees and logs. All have creeping rhizomes and shed spent fronds cleanly as new growth appears.

Polypodium californicum

Native to California and northwestern Mexico. Bright green fronds 4–12 in. long emerge in fall and stay fresh-looking until late spring or early summer, when plant goes dormant (may be nearly evergreen in coastal gardens). Spreads slowly and widely. Excellent on rocky slopes or beneath trees, as long as drainage is excellent and garden debris is not allowed to bury the rhizomes. ‘Sarah Lyman’ is a choice selection with finely dissected fronds and a more clumping habit. Needs moderate water during growth, little to none during summer dormancy.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)
Polypodium glycyrrhiza (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)

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Polypodium glycyrrhiza

Mat-forming native of coastal regions from Alaska to California. Grows to 1 ft. tall and spreads indefinitely. Use as a groundcover in a woodland or rock garden. Dark green fronds resemble those of a small sword fern (Polystichum). Grow in well-drained soil; mulch with leaf mold or other organic matter. Can take full sun when grown on the coast. Little to regular water.

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