Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 942 Polystichum polyblepharum

Common Names: Japanese tassel fern, tassel fern, holly fern, Japanese lace fern Family: Dryopteridaceae (wood fern Family)

Japanese tassel fern foliage
The drooping tips of the three young fronds (lighter green) are said to look like (Japanese?) tassels inspiring the common name Japanese tassel fern.


Japanese tassel fern is a evergreen fern with shiny dark green bipinnate fronds that are a more subdued, paler green on the reverse side. The rachis (main axis of the frond) is covered with thin brown scales. Tassel fern grows in a luxuriant shuttlecock clump that gets about 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm) tall on an erect rhizome that retains the scars of old rachi. The croziers (or "fiddleheads") begin their unfurling like any other fern, but then they reverse direction and droop down and backward like a tassel. They stay that way for a while, then resume unfurling in the normal manner. The spores are borne in rows on the underside of the fronds.


Japanese tassel fern, Polystichum polyblepharum, is native to Japan and southern Korea.


Since Japanese tassel fern is usually evergreen, you will want to remove old fronds as they become unsightly and are replaced by fresh growth. Light: Like most ferns, Japanese tassel fern needs at least light shade and will do fine in full shade. It seems to do best in dappled shade. Moisture: Tassel fern should get even moisture. Don't let it dry out, but don't let the soil stay waterlogged either. A soil that stays evenly moist is best. This fern should be kept drier in winter. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Propagation: Divide the root clump in spring to propagate this fern.


Some say the Japanese tassel fern is one of the most beautiful ferns in cultivation. Use this evergreen beauty in a shady border or woodland garden where its shiny foliage adds luster to an otherwise subdued environment. The thick, luxurious foliage arising from a single rhizome reminds one of a small cycad.

a shady bed of Japanese tassel fern
Use Japanese tassel fern to create lush evergreen groundcover for shady areas like this bunch at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Jack uses it beneath Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica) where it performs handsomely.


Japanese tassel fern, Polytheistic polyblepharum is sometimes sold under the name, P. setosum. The common name, "holly fern" is usually applied to Cyrtomium falcatum, a fern whose pinnae really do look like holly leaves. There are some 200 species of Polystichum, or shield ferns, and some of them also have holly-shaped pinnae and are called holly fern too.

Steve Christman 2/9/02; updated 5/10/04

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Polystichum species profiled on Floridata:

Polystichum polyblepharum

( Japanese tassel fern, tassel fern, holly fern, Japanese lace fern )

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