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A picture of a Hard Shield Fern

Hard Shield Fern

Polystichum aculeatum

Also known as

Prickly Shield Fern, Hard shield fern, Shield fern

Stijve naaldvaren plant (Polystichum aculeatum) by Rasbak (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Full Shade
Moderate care
Moderate watering
Frost Hardy


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size








3 years to reach maturity

More images of Hard Shield Fern

A close up of a green Polystichum aculeatum fern in the wild
A green Polystichum aculeatum fern in a forest
A green Polystichum aculeatum fern in a forest
A photo of Hard Shield Fern

Hard Shield Fern Overview

Polystichum aculeatum is also known by the names prickly shield fern and hard shield fern after the texture of its foliage. It is a hardy, evergreen fern species that produces a neat rosette of bipinnately divided foliage. On the second leaf division, there are pickles. Leaves are arranged on long, lance-shaped fronds measuring around 90cm in length. These are arching and erect in their habit, leathery in texture and dark green in colour. This fern species is native to Europe and the UK, where it is frequently found at high altitudes in woodlands. It has earnt a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Common problems with Hard Shield Fern

Dense plantings encourage the formation of grey moulds or the fungal disease Taphrina wettsteiniana. Generally pest free.

How to propagate Hard Shield Fern


Sow spores when ripe at a temperature of around 15-16 degrees Celcius.


Rhizomes may be divided in spring


Fronds may form bulbils in the autumn, these may be detached and planted.


Division of the rhizomes.

Special features of Hard Shield Fern

Attractive leaves

Ground cover

Other uses of Hard Shield Fern

Ground cover, under shrubs


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