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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

21 March, 2014

Adding soft shield fern to the armoury

In researching and writing about ferns in my nature notes I noticed a tendency for ferns to be named after armour! There is male-fern which seems to have derived its name from chain mail and the buckler ferns where a buckler is a shield buckled to the forearm. So now I have soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) for which I can find no notes about the origin of the name but the fern is undoubtedly shield shaped so I presume that is why it is a shield fern. The soft shield fern has soft fronds, there is a hard shield fern which are stiffer and
more brittle.
The soft shield fern is a native of damp woods in the west of Britain, in Ireland and Iberia but it also occurs as far away as Turkey and the Crimea. It is an attractive fern that is often found in gardens and there are some cultivated varieties available from garden centres. This may account for why the only site I have found for it in Dorset so far is at Durlston in the woods near the castle which, some years ago now, were part of the castle gardens. Other 'introduced' plants occur here and I am guessing that soft shield fern was introduced in this way.
At first glance it looks like the common male-fern but closer inspection reveals various differences, but the most significant is the ornamental, attractive 'leaflets' on the fronds which, on the male-fern, are quite plain and uninteresting!
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