The buckler fern (Dryopteris remota) is a hybrid of D. affinis and D. expansa. It combines the fine frond cutting (with margins deeply lobed and teethed) of D. expansa with the narrow, dense frond form and less leathery texture of D. affinis. It also enjoys the benefits of natural hybrid vigor, making the plant more robust than either parent.
This hybrid is fertile, meaning that it grows small spore-bearing dots called sori on the back sides of its leaves. Each sorus is protected by a convex, umbrella-shaped structure called an indusium. These spore-bearing structures are usually hidden from view, but make a fascinating point of conversation if you flip over the leaf to show someone. More importantly, these structures let your fern reproduce! Once established, this fertile hybrid will propagate to fill all the space available to it, thriving wherever the conditions are right for it.
A native of Europe, Buckler Fern prefers moist, humus-rich soil in shady spots with some wind protection. It is ideal as an underplanting for shade trees, particularly ones like Pine or Douglas Fir that produce an acidic leaf litter (due to the low levels of Calcium in their leaves). Let it fill your shady spots and wow you for years with its upright stems and incredibly fine foliage! Zones 4 to 8.