Dryopteris goldiana (Goldie's Fern)

Plant Info
Also known as: Giant Wood Fern
Family:Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; average to moist; hardwood forest, ravines, along streams, swamp and seep edges
Fruiting season:mid-summer
Plant height:30 to 48 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound, generally egg-shaped in outline, abruptly tapering at the tip end, 15 to 48 inches long, 6 to 16 inches wide, with 12 to 20 pairs of branches (pinnae). Branches are mostly oblong in outline, abruptly tapering to a point, the lowest pair of branches are more oval-elliptic in outline and may be twice compound. A branch has up to 24 pairs of leaflets (pinnules) in an opposite formation. Leaflets are shallowly toothed, rounded at the tip, and have forked veins.

[photo of lower stems] Stems are grooved, the lower stem densely covered in large scales, most dark brown with lighter edging; the upper stem sparsely covered in tan scales. The plant grows in an asymmetrical clump, the fronds spreading in all directions, from nearly prostrate to arching to erect.

Spores: Fruit type: spores on leaf

[photo of spores] The sori (group of spores) are found on the underside of the leaf.  They are circular and arranged in 2 rows, 1 on each side of the mid-vein of a leaflet. A kidney-shaped, translucent tissue (indusium) partly covers the spores and is attached on inner curve. Spores ripen to dark brown or black. Not all leaves have spores and there is no visible difference between fertile and sterile leaves.


Goldie's Fern is a large fern found in rich, hardwood forest, and not likely to be confused with other ferns—the large scales at the base of the stems, shallowly toothed leaflets, and rows of sori along the midvein along with the large leaves make this a pretty distinctive species. It is also a rare species in Minnesota, as we are at the northwest tip of its range. According to the DNR, about 50 occurrences were known as of 2008, most in the southeast counties with a few disjunct populations in the north central counties. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Winona County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Starr - Minneapolis-Linden Hills
on: 2015-04-19 11:56:39

No wonder I couldn't figure out what kind of fern was in our yard. Grandma let it grow in clumps and it's very touchy. I tried to re-locate one and for two years I had a tiny single leaf. This year it came back in its glory. Recognized it by the weird leaf shape and the funny sori. If you look around you may still find it around the wooded areas by lake Harriet.

Posted by: Sharen - Fillmore County
on: 2016-05-12 20:35:25

Seen on bluff above Wisel Creek also cliff-brake fern

Posted by: Janet Rahm - North Oaks Ramsey County
on: 2019-06-04 15:11:03

We have a goldie’s that was here when we moved in 1999. I have since planted a few and they have done very well. They have not attained 48” but are quite tall and more upright than our ostrich fern.

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