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Nephrolepis exaltata

(Boston Fern)


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Fern native to Hawaii and widespread in the tropics with erect tufts of stiff, once pinnate fronds 2-5 feet long and 3-6 inches broad on a short vertical stem. The spore bearing cases (sporangia) are in circular clusters (sori) distributed in a row near each edge of the underside of leaflets .

Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Afrikaans:


Common Names in Arabic:

سرخس بوسطن

Common Names in English:

Boston Fern, Boston Sword Fern, Boston Swordfern, Curly Boston Fern, Fluffy Ruffle Fern, Kupukupu, Lace fern, Sword Fern, Wild Boston Fern

Common Names in Norwegian:


Common Names in Polish:

Nefrolepis wyniosły


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Genus Nephrolepis

Plants terrestrial , epiphytic, or on rock. Stems ascending to erect , bearing wiry stolons and sometimes underground tubers. Leaves monomorphic , evergreen . Petiole ca. 1/10--1/2 length of blade , base not swollen; vascular bundles more than 3, arranged in an arc, ± round in cross section . Blade narrowly elliptic to linear-lanceolate, 1-pinnate (to 4--5-pinnate in various cultivated forms), very gradually reduced distally to minute pinnatifid apex, often seemingly indeterminate with apex never expanded, herbaceous to papery . Pinnae articulate to rachis, sometimes deciduous, segment (pinna) margins entire, crenulate , or biserrate ; proximal pinnae (usually several pairs) slightly to greatly reduced, sessile, equilateral or inequilateral with basiscopic base excised and often an acroscopic basal auricle ; costae adaxially grooved , grooves not continuous from rachis to costae; indument of linear-lanceolate scales and sometimes multicellular hairs on abaxial and sometimes adaxial surfaces. Veins free , forked . Sori ± round; indusia round-reniform and with deep sinus to semicircular with broad sinus or lunate without sinus and seemingly laterally attached, persistent . Spores brownish, tuberculate to rugose . x = 41.

Species 25--30: widespread in tropical areas.

Nephrolepis often has veins ending in hydathodes and whitish lime-dots adaxially.

Cultivars of Nephrolepis occasionally are found in the wild, where they persist for some time. Numerous forms of N. exaltata cv. `Bostoniensis' and its derivatives are widely cultivated, and the following are known from Florida: N. exaltata cv. `Bostoniensis', N. exaltata cv. `Elegantissima' complex , N. exaltata cv. `Florida Ruffles', N. exaltata cv. `M. P. Mills'.[1]

Physical Description

Species Nephrolepis exaltata

Stem scales spreading , concolored. Tubers absent. Leaves 4--15 × 0.5--1.2 dm. Petiole 0.2--4 dm, sparsely to moderately scaly ; scales spreading, pale brown to reddish brown, concolored. Blade glabrous , sparsely to moderately scaly abaxially near costae and adaxially. Rachis 2.4--16.3 dm, points of pinna attachment 7.3--21 mm apart; scales moderately spaced, pale to dark brown, essentially concolored or margin indistinctly paler; hairs absent. Central pinnae deltate-oblong, slightly to distinctly falcate , 2.3--7.4 × 0.6--1.8 cm, base truncate to truncate-auriculate or auriculate , occasionally overlapping rachis, acroscopic lobe deltate to acute, margins serrulate , apex acute to deltate; costae adaxially glabrous. Indusia reniform to horseshoe-shaped, attached at narrow or broad sinus , 1--1.7 mm wide. [source]

Nephrolepis exaltata is occasionally found farther north in the flora , but only as an escape from cultivation. Nephrolepis exaltata is usually confused with N. cordifolia when sterile ; the latter species can be distinguished by its distinctly bicolored , adaxial rachis scales. These bicolored scales will distinguish N. cordifolia from all of the other species, even in the absence of other key features. [source]

Habit: Forb/herb

Flowers: Bloom Period: n/a • Flower Color: inconspicuous, none

Foliage: Gorgeous foliage with ruffled edges .


Growth Rate: Fast. • Size: 24-36" tall.


Care: Cat-safe. Dog-safe. Feed lightly as new growth appears. Protect from frost.


Terrestrial or epiphytic in forested to open habitats , most often as an epiphyte; 0 m [2].

Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 3,037 meters (0 to 9,964 feet).[3]


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Duration: Perennial


Culture: Space 12-15" apart.

Soil: Minimum pH: 5.6 • Maximum pH: 6.0

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Bright indirect or filtered light.

Moisture: Water Requirements: Keep evenly moist but not soggy at all times. Loves to be misted.

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11. (map)


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Aspidium exaltatum (L.) Schkuhr • Hypopeltis exaltata (L.) Bory • Nephrodium exaltatum (L.) Desv. • Nephrodium exaltatum (L.) Kunth • Nephrodium exaltatum (L.) R. Br. • Polypodium exaltatum Linnaeus • Syst. Nat. Ed. 10


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Nephrolepis

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 34 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

N. averyi (Avery's Swordfern) · N. biserrata (Giant Sword Fern) · N. biserrata 'Macho' (Macho Fern) · N. cordifolia (Boston Fern) · N. cordifolia var. Lemon Buttons (Button Sword Fern) · N. cordifolia 'Duffii' (Fishbone Fern) · N. cordifolia 'Timmii' (Timm's Petticoat Fern) · N. exaltata (Boston Fern) · N. exaltata cordifolia (Boston Swordfern) · N. exaltata var. bostoniensis (Boston Fern) · N. exaltata var. Fluffy Ruffles (Sword Fern) · N. exaltata var. Whitmanii (Boston Fern) · N. exaltata 'Aurea' (Golden Boston Fern) · N. exaltata 'Bostoniensis' (Boston Fern) · N. exaltata 'Bostoniensis Aureus' (Golden Boston Fern) · N. exaltata 'Fluffy Ruffles Upright' (Boston Fern) · N. exaltata 'Ruth' (Ruth Fern) · N. exaltata 'Shadow Lace' (Boston Fern) · N. exaltata 'Suzi Wong' (Boston Swordfern) · N. exaltata 'Tiger Fern' (Boston Fern) · N. falcata (Fish Tail Swordfern) · N. falcata 'Fancy Frill' (Fishtail Fern) · N. falcata 'Furcans' (Furcans Fishtail Fern) · N. hirsutula (Scaly Swordfern) · N. laurifolia (Laurel-Leaf Swordfern) · N. multiflora (Asian Swordfern) · N. obliterata (Australian Sword Fern) · N. obliterata 'Kimberly Queen' (Australian Sword Fern) · N. obliterata 'Medusa' (Australian Sword Fern) · N. pectinata (Basket Fern) · N. rivularis (Streamside Swordfern) · N. undulata (Annual Swordfern) · N. x (Avery's Swordfern) · N. × averyi (Avery's Swordfern)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 19, 2007:



  1. Clifton E. Nauman "Nephrolepis". in Flora of North America Vol. 2. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Nephrolepis exaltata". in Flora of North America Vol. 2. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  3. Mean = 274.720 meters (901.312 feet), Standard Deviation = 845.680 based on 99 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-12-02