Rootstock: slender, creeping. Leaves: triangular, thin, mostly longer than wide, acuminate at the apex, pubescent; pinnae lanceolate, sessile, pinnately parted very nearly to the rachis into oblong, entire segments. Sori: small, borne near the margin.
A common fern on the hillsides, and in moist woods. The fronds are from six to nine inches long, and the two lowest pinnae are bent downwards and stand forward, a trait which gives the plant a most distinctive appearance, and by which it may always be readily recognized.
Phegopteris alpestris, or Tufted Beech Fern, has oblong leaves which taper towards the top.
Phegopteris Dryopteris, or Oak Fern, is extremely attractive, and grows very thickly in shady woods. The leaves are delicate and broadly triangular, the three primary divisions being stalked, and the terminal one slightly the largest. In Shakespeare's day "fern-seed" as they called the spores were supposed to contain miraculous as well as medicinal properties, and Gadshill in "Henry IV" says: - "We have the receipt of fern-seed, we walk invisible." But his faith was quickly dispelled by the answer: - "Nay, I think rather you are more beholden to the night than to fern-seed, for your walking invisible."
Oak Fern (Phegopteris Dryoptens)