Fiddle Dee Dee

A form of Polystichum
A form of Polystichum
Dryopteris  filix-mas
Dryopteris filix-mas

I have become increasingly fascinated by ferns and more and more seem to be finding their way into my garden.  I have many evergreen and wintergreen varieties but also many deciduous varieties and it is the emerging fronds at this time of year which I find quite magical.

The emerging fronds are called croziers or fiddleheads and I understand that in the States some varieties are eaten at this time of year.

Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern)
Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern)

However, when taking photographs of the croziers today I noticed that one of my ferns, Polystichum, has backwards or maybe upside down croziers.  If you look at the top photo you will see that the curl is completely the opposite way round to the others.

Onoclea sensibilis copper form
Onoclea sensibilis copper form

Noticing this peculiarity lead me to search out all the ferns with emerging fronds to see if there were any others and there aren’t in my small collection.


Does anyone know if there are many varieties which unfurl backwards?  I can’t find anything in my reference book.




15 Comments Add yours

  1. Yvonne Ryan says:

    In New Zealand we call an unfurling frond a koru – and we have one on the tail of Air New Zealand planes. Many greenstone (jade-Nephrite) carvings are in the shape of a koru. The Kiwi, silver fern and koru are symbolic for us in art, signage, and just being a New Zealander

  2. sueturner31 says:

    I only have common ferns..but the never cease to amaze me in the spring…fascinating.

  3. Julie says:

    I have read too that fiddleheads can be eaten, but they need very careful cooking, I am not sure that I would try. I love the wonderful shapes as they unfurl. I can’t help with the backwards unfurling, I haven’t come across this, but will look more closely.

  4. polina says:

    Love those young fern stems too… like new-born aliens
    have bought and planted two varieties this spring, and hope for some more 🙂

  5. Pauline says:

    They are all beautiful aren’t they and fascinating.

  6. rusty duck says:

    I think the backwards unfurling fern must be one of the very common ones, I’ve just been out looking at them here and there are loads of them in the untamed woodland.

  7. Linda says:

    Just found your blog! I love the uncurling fronds too! Love that they are called fiddleheads!

  8. Rick Nelson says:

    Interesting question about the ferns unfolding but I think that they are just following a light source. Ferns have a gene which is light sensitive enabling them to live in shady areas and naturally they will grow towards a stronger light. The ones that you have pictured are more unfurled than the others and growing in the same direction so I think this explanation is entirely possible.

  9. Great photos Helen, its dark out but I’m sure none of my ferns do that reverse curl thing. Weird!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I was just at a plant sale where they were selling an “upside down fern” that had the frondlets curving down from the center spine of the frond. No fiddleheads visible, however, and an internet search suggests not likely to be your left-handed fiddlehead. Perhaps it’s just further along in the unfurling process?

  11. Anna says:

    That’s most observant of you Helen. Don’t have an answer to your question – it might be worth contacting the British Pteridological Society. Unfurling ferns always remind me of seahorses.

  12. Cathy says:

    Ferns never cease to delight me, Helen, particularly when they are unfurling like this

  13. Fascinating post, Helen. Your pictures are stunning. Just going out into my garden to check how the ferns are coming along. P. x

  14. I grow a lot of ferns and they will begin unfurling any moment. so now I will have to look more closely at them. My two favorites are Maidenhair (Adiantum pedaturm) and Fishbone fern (Dryopteris felix mas ‘Llinearis polydactyla’). I’ve been growing both for almost 20 years as they are hardy in my cold climate. Just discovered your blog via RDuck and am enchanted. I have also managed to get a clump of double bloodroot to grow so I loved seeing it in the exhibit.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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