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2.) PTERIDOPHYTES Ferns & Fern-allies



LYCOPODIACEAE - Clubmoss family


  • Huperzia selago (L.) Bernh. ex Schrank & Mart. ssp. selago (Fir Clubmoss) General Extinct Used to occur in open ground on Court Hill, Clevedon along with L. clavatum. Last seen in May, 1884 when a single plant was found by Mr. Mason. and shown to Mr. D. Fry and J. W. White. (White, 1912 & Murray, 1896).


  • Lycopodium clavatum L. (Stag's-horn Clubmoss) General Extinct Previously existed in open ground on Court Hill, Clevedon and is stated to have been abundant there towards the beginning of the 19th century and still in "fair quantity" in 1885 in three distinct spots; D. Fry. but was apparently diminishing as there is no mention of it after the publication of White's Bristol Flora (1912). Also once grew in a number of sites on Black Down (just outside our area), "under bracken; a large patch in fruit, 1896; Miss Gregory" and again in 1908 and 1911, F. Samson. An interesting local name originating from W. Somerset is 'Lady's knives and forks'. Whilst extremely unlikely, it is possible that it could be rediscovered one day - either from Court Hill's surviving fragment (which has been cut through by the M5 and is gradually becoming swallowed up by woodland) or more likely Black Down where there is still suitable habitat. It has also been recorded a few miles North of the region from "Furze Hill near Dursley, 1869; Herb. St. Brody" (White, 1912 & Riddelsdell, 1948) and another a few miles South of the region on a patch of ground near Rookham by the Old Bristol Rd.


  • Selaginella kraussiana (Kunze) A.Braun (Krauss's Clubmoss) General Very Rare Found naturalised in the grounds surrounding Tyntesfield house where it was first discovered in 2006 by P. Millman and has since spread to a number of localities - no doubt through mowing. Also found naturalised in St Bartholomew's Churchyard, Lower Failand in 2017 by H.J. Crouch and M. Webster.


OPHIOGLOSSACEAE - Adder's-tongue family


  • Ophioglossum vulgatum L. (Adder's-tongue) - General Scarce A once widespread and frequent fern of unimproved grassland, open woods, scrub, roadsides and railway banks. Whilst this is not a particularly choosy plant, it has undergone significant decline due to a combination of habitat destruction - caused by development, ploughing up of pastures and other changes in farming practices - nutrification by intensive fertiliser usage being a major one (also a main cause in dog walking hotspots), or neglect and mismanagement of previously suitable sites. Climate change is also likely to be a factor as despite its unfussy nature it does tend to prefer the more water retentive soils which are prone to drying. The distribution of this species since 2000 shows it has vanished from many of its strongholds but remains prominent in the N.E. of the region around Lower Woods. It could possibly also be under-recorded and visits to remaining ex-sites are needed. The return of appropriate management to others could see this species return to a more frequent state (as has happened to a site near Chew Valley Lake). Interestingly the old English name was "nedder's-tongue" or "naddyr-wort" and in the 15th century it lost the initial 'n' through an erroneous division of 'a naddyr' into 'an addyr'. (Apron, orange and umpire are apparently other instances where the 'n' has been dropped). Unusual "plants bearing two fertile spikes on one frond" were once persistent on Purdown near Stapleton, Bristol, H. J. Wadlow (White, 1912).


  • Botrychium lunaria (L.) Sw. (Moonwort) General Very Rare Always rare in the Bristol Region but now virtually extinct. Its unpredictable appearance - sometimes being absent for many years before reappearing again makes it hard to detect. At its last remaining regular site - at Goblin Combe - where it was first discovered growing under Yew trees on Carboniferous limestone in 1985 by R.J.H.; and has been sighted here intermittently since in diminishing quantity: 1986, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2008, 2009 and most recently in 2021? by Dave Gibbs?. It was discovered at a new location in 2002, growing in calcareous grassland on Cadbury Camp Above Tickenham but has not been seen here since 2003. A number of historic records show its distribution was much greater in the past. In the Gloucestershire division: "Shirehampton; T. B. Flower in Swete, Fl. Penpole Point, one plant; W. W. Stoddart [these refer to the same locality]. Combe Down, Henbury; once only" and "Kingsweston Hill; Miss Powell" (as extracted from White, 1912). More lately it was found in 1955 on an old slag heap near Engine Common, N. of Yate. In Somerset Moonwort was much more extensive: "Failand, on the Manor Farm in one spot; D. Williams. Pasture on the ridge above Weston-in-Gordano; A. E. G. Way. Walton Castle Hill, Clevedon; T. B. Flower. Moors, Clevedon, 1883; W. E. Green [just outside the region]. Callow Hill, Sidcot; Herb. Stephens. Eight plants there, 1904; and one in 1908; Miss Roper. Wavering Down, above Winscombe." Also found "Between Claverton and Bath; Fl. Bathon. Suppl." and "Prior Park, Bath, 1856; Herb Jenyns." (White, 1912). Our earliest record comes from John Gerard in 1597 - "Lunaria or small Moonewort groweth about Bathe in Somersetshire in manie places." In 2016 specimens with features likened to B. nordicum were found in Somerset not long after its British discovery in 2015. If proven to be the case it's probable that a number of past records may have been referable to this if it doesn't still exist? The origin of the name Moonwort comes from the fronds resemblance to a crescent moon. It was believed that the key-shaped fronds could be used as a key to open any lock, and that if you were to ride over a field of Moonwort at night, your horse's shoes would fall off!; leading to its other name - ‘Unshoe-the-horse.’



EQUISETACEAE - Horsetail family


  • Equisetum hyemale L. (Rough Horsetail) General Extinct Discovered in a swampy sandy field to the south-west of the loop-line at Weston-super-Mare in 1899 or 1900 by Mr. H. Corder. Last seen here in 1928. Also reported "occurring on the canal bank near Bath by Dr. Davis; but the record was never confirmed" (White, 1912, Murray, 1896 & Marshall, 1914). Found for the first time in S. Gloucestershire in 2024 by Phil Handy - as a garden escape growing at the base of a wall in Brockridge Lane, Frampton Cotterell.

  • Equisetum ramosissimum Desf. (var. ramosissimum - Kew) (Branched Horsetail) Coasts Very rare Known since c.1963 on sandy ground at Ellenborough Park, Weston-super-Mare when it was noted for being 'odd' by botanists but it wasn’t until 1986 - where it was found extending for about 100 m along a low sandy bank in an enclosed area of dune by I.P.G., that it was determined by A.C. Jermy. Previously considered a possible native but now thought to be a neophyte; possibly arriving with dumped ballast from ships in the 1950s. Also found by R.J. Higgins in the grounds of the Grand Atlantic Hotel, approximately 100m to the north of Ellenborough Park in 2018?. Since the two sites are separated by a road and several buildings date from the late 19th century it seems likely that an introduction predates development of the area, or that the plant is actually native here. Other than a site in Lincolnshire this is the only known location for it in Britain and if it is really native this might indicate a once more extensive distribution.

  • Equisetum variegatum Schleich. ex F.Weber & D.Mohr (Variegated Horsetail) Coasts Extinct Once occurred on sandy ground near the Railway Station at Weston-Super-Mare along with E. hyemale - discovered at the same time by Mr. Corder. Later found outside the region in damp dune hollows north of Burnham in 1904 by Dr. C. E. Moss. Last seen in 1951. R.J. Higgins suggests that the plant may have actually been an unbranched form of E. ramosissimum.

  • Equisetum fluviatile L. (Water Horsetail) / Wetland Uncommon Locally common on the levels and moors of North Somerset; very scattered elsewhere. Found on the margins of ponds, lakes, rhynes, streams and marshes. Much rarer than Marsh Horsetail (E. palustre). In the past the species was split into two varieties: var. fluviatile and var. limosum but they just represented two different growth forms.

  • Equisetum fluviatile x E. arvense = E. x litorale Kühlew. ex Rupr. (Shore Horsetail) / Wetland Very Rare Grows in a rhyne on Lawrence Weston Moor, Bristol where it was discovered in 1985 by I.F.G. At the time only a few plants existed but it now covers a large area. Found new to N. Somerset in 2008 at Kenn Moor by H.J. Crouch & J. Mortin, growing in a ditch N. of Claverham Drove. It should occur elsewhere. The name Shore Horsetail is misleading as it has no prevalence to be by the coast.

  • Equisetum arvense L. (Field Horsetail) / General Common Widespread and by far the commonest horsetail in the region but patchy in places and absent from much of a band from west central Bristol through Ashton and to Langford (correlating with the distribution of Carboniferous limestone). A plant of waste and cultivated land, pastures, field margins, roadsides, woodland rides and sometimes even pavements. An extremely variable species. In more open exposed and cultivated sites it tends to have a more prostrate and feathery appearance, compared to its more robust state of sheltered positions. Often wrongly named Mare's-tail (which refers to the aquatic plant Hippuris vulgaris) and often perceived as a noxious weed by gardeners and allotmenteers for its difficulty to eradicate - due to its long fibrous roots which easily break and have the ability to regenerate from the smallest of fragments; but it is really a very beautiful native and should be admired like the rest of our plants. Joint-weed, Mare's-tails and Old man's beard are a few local names from W. Somerset.

  • Equisetum sylvaticum L. (Wood Horsetail) Wetland Very Rare Known only from Compton Common where it grows in two hedgebanks, the adjoining marshy area and two arable fields (highly unusual). First noted by M.W.J.P in 1985 and still present in 1999, 2004, 2006 & 2007. It was not known confidently in White's day. In the past it is said to have existed "in damp places around Batheaston" - Miss Lonsdale in Babington's Fl. Bathon. Sup. (1839) (White, 1912) and was also noted by Flower to occur near Bath but these were never confirmed and they may have been mistakes for the more robust form of E. arvense of sheltered positions as mentioned under var. nemorosum (Riddelsdell, 1948). White states “It is not unlikely, however, that the plant may some day be met with again." And he was right. Also recorded near Gaunts Earthcott along a section of river adjacent to Hortham Ln and the M5 and the Northern tip of Woodlands Golf Course in 1992 (needs confirming - probably wrong) and found outside the region near Rookham by A.C. Jermy in 1961. There are more records close by but outside the region which suggests it could be found elsewhere.

  • Equisetum palustre L. (Marsh Horsetail) Wetland Frequent Locally common on the Levels and Moors, well distributed but scattered elsewhere. Associated with springs, marshes, damp grassland, river banks, ditches, rhynes, wet woodland and scrub. 'Mutants' are occasionally met with; having cones on the tips of many branches. These are mentioned in historical local flora’s under the name 'var. polystachium'. They may also sometimes be simple (lacking branches) - ‘var. nudum’.

  • Equisetum telmateia Ehrh. (Great Horsetail) / General Frequent Locally plentiful throughout the region. Not particularly fussy but has a strong preference to be near water; occuring by ditches, streams and in damp woods, scrub, hedgerows, railway banks, field margins and wasteland etc. Holds it's own in urban areas and can even thrive in concrete 'jungles', even growing through it! Arguably the most stunning of our horsetails; growing to over 1.5 or even 2 m. As with E. palustre 'mutants' can occur. White mentions - "I once gathered, at the Leigh Wood station, two fertile stems on which the terminal spikes were divided one into five and the other into eight erect branches. A similar variety or monstrosity "with the branches compound" was noted near Bath by Mr. T. B. Flower." Our very own resident Tudor botanist, of Somerset - Henry Lyte named plants of this peculiar nature 'Foxtailed Asparagus' (White, 1912). In 2016?, several plants were found by R.J. Higgins having fertile cones on the ends of sterile branches amongst a large population of normal plants on a former landfill site at Lawrence Weston - apparently the first time this form has been recorded in this species.

(what's var. serotinum? A late form? Glos. Fl. ask Fred Rumsey)


OSMUNDACEAE - Royal Fern family


  • Osmunda regalis L. (Royal Fern) Wetland Extinct Wiped out by Victorian fern collectors. Once occurred in "Blaise Castle Woods, by the streamside towards Combe Dingle; and was exterminated by the public before admission to the domain was restricted." reported from near Mangotsfield, Hb. Brody, Westerleigh Common, Rudge (Riddelsdell, 1948), Formerly in a wet copse on Walton Moor, near Clevedon. "A resident lady informed me that she remembered the last two roots being dug up for sale by a Clevedon cabman." - J.W.White and mentioned in a Clevedon Guide, 1878 as located in the Kingston Seymore marshes. Also said to have formerly grown in Leigh Woods (Murray, 1896). The nearest place that this fern grows wild in today is at Westhay Moor.

HYMENOPHYLLACEAE - Filmy-fern family


  • Trichomanes speciosum Willd. (Killarney Fern) Woodland Very Rare Found for the first time in 1997 by M.A.R.K. and C.K. in deep, damp crevices in Pennant Sandstone on both sides of the river Frome in Glen Frome. Here it only exists in its gametophyte stage. A search for it on a BNS meeting in 2022 revealed it to be a lot commoner than previously thought and it was present in nearly every suitable looking crevice. It likely extends to suitable situations throughout the valley. No doubt the plant has existed here for a very long time but it's not known whether the sporophyte (mature plant) once grew or if it's a more recent colonisation. The theory that Otters may be in part responsible for the gametophyte's national distribution via dispersal of the fern's vegetative propagules (gemmae), which are picked up on the fur of otters when visiting caves, is an interesting one. Otters do certainly travel through Glen Frome. So who knows? It may exist elsewhere in the region.

MARSILEACEAE - Pillwort family


  • Pilularia globulifera L. (Pillwort) Wetland Extinct Used to occur at "Somerset Coal Canal, at Monckton Combe; H. F. Parsons" (Murray, 1896) in about 1875. The only other record is from Winscombe, N. Somerset in about 1916. The potential site for the latter record is an old Mill Pond to the West at Nut Tree Farm which, though modified, still exists today on private land.

SALVINIACEAE - Water Fern family


  • Azolla filiculoides Lam. (Water Fern) Wetland Scarce Introduced. Locally abundant on the surface of water in rhynes and ponds on the Levels and Moors. Rare and very localised elsewhere but increasing, particularly in the area between Pilning and Awkley. Varies in abundance from year to year. One year it may carpet water bodies to the point of no water visibility, the next it may be non-existent.


PTERIDIUM Gled. ex Scop.

  • Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn ssp. aquilinum (Bracken) / General Common but absent from many areas; occurring in woodland, scrub, heaths, hedgebanks, field margins, railway banks, wilder cemeteries and even sometimes very built up areas. Favours the more acidic soils but also occurs on leached limestone. Surprisingly the data shows it has greatly reduced in distribution and under-recording is unlikely to be the main culprit. It seems to have genuinely declined. Losses could be due to changes in land management and destruction of habitats such as hedgerows. Unfortunately Bracken isn’t a much-loved plant and is often considered invasive for its ability to swamp large areas and is even accused of being carcinogenic due to high concentrations of ptaquiloside - which passes through meat and dairy products. For this reason cattle farmers and owners of livestock in general reguard it as a toxic weed, despite the fact that animals rarely ever touch it and substantial quantities need to be ingested for the effects to be of any concern; suggesting purposeful eradication might be the main blame for its apparent loss since 2000. It is perhaps one of the most important plants; particularly in upland heathland situations for preventing soil erosion and its provision of shelter to ground nesting birds, mammals and reptiles as well as invertebrates such as fritillary butterflies in otherwise completely exposed sites and in the past was arguably one of the single most important natural resources. It was often cut to provide padding and insulation to packaging and ironically animal bedding; and was also burnt for its ash - used widely as a fertiliser and in the soap and glass-making industry.

R.J.Higgins says - Self-sown plants are probably uncommon in this species, which usually spreads vegetatively, so a small plant that persisted for a while at the base of a wall at Parkway Station, distant from any established population, is of some note. (Feel free to leave out if you don’t think it’s of any note).

PTERIDACEAE - Ribbon Fern family


  • Adiantum capillus-veneris L. (Maidenhair Fern) / General Rare. Rare but on the increase. Locally plentiful in the outdoor cellars and grills of Bath city where it is spreading and scattered elsewhere in the region. Found at Westbury Wildlife Park in 2021 by D. Peters; growing in the wall of an old derelict greenhouse (13 plants of various stages) and recorded well established by the same author in 2023, growing in 6 different spots, forming decent patches on the inner walls around the harbour of Bathhurst Basin and occurs sporadically elsewhere along the Floating Harbour. Old records include: "Under a bridge at Compton Dando, where it has been known some years," R. P. Murray; "At the mouth of an old well near Clevedon." Leo H. Grindon; "Three plants, growing in the air-shaft of a stone quarry some thirty feet below the ground, at Combe Down near Bath, 1853." E. J. Lowe (White, 1912 & Murray, 1896). Many of the records are of clear garden escapes but it is possible that some could well have derived from long-distant spore dispersal - from native populations elsewhere in Britain.

  • Adiantum raddianum Presl (Delta Maidenhair Fern) General Extinct A single plant was recorded In 1997 by I.P. Green in a basement at Marlborough Buildings, near the Royal Crescent; it was seen again in 2008 by M.A. Spencer when it was identified and later confirmed by F.J. Rumsey. Last seen in the basement in 2012, but may yet persist. It could perhaps be overlooked for A. capillus-veneris - from which it differs in having horseshoe-shaped sori around the pinnule notches as opposed to oblong sori between the notches.


  • Pteris cretica L. (ssp. cretica) (Ribbon Fern) - General Extinct First recorded from a house wall in Hurle Road, Clifton in 1971 by ?; next found in 1978 on the stonework of a deserted basement in New King Street, Bath where it soon disappeared but was later found nearby in 1979 on an old basement wall in Beauford Square where it didn't last long either (both recorded by R.M. Payne) and not seen until 2006 where it was discovered at Sydney Buildings (the cultivar ‘Wimsettii’) by R.D. Randall and in consecutive years at Laura Place in 2007, St James’ Parade in 2008, and last seen in Bath from Catharine Place in 2009 (all three by H.J. Crouch). Outside of Bath it was found to be well established at Ashton Court in 2009 by ? and most recently recorded in 2021 by Rupert Higgins, Staple Hill, Bristol. It has not been seen anywhere else in the region since but is highly likely to turn up again one day. An increasing number of similar-looking species and cultivars are grown and should be expected to turn up in the future.

  • Pteris multifida Poir. (Spider Brake) General Extinct Plants had been known under a grille on Lansdown Road, Bath since 2002, and on the stonework of a basement in Pierrepont Street for ten years longer but were destroyed during refurbishment of the basement area. It was only in 2006 that these were both identified by F.J. Rumsey.

  • Pteris nipponica W. C. Shieh / Pteris parkeri J. J. Parker (Variegated Ribbon-fern) General Extinct Found once only in 2008 by H.J. Crouch, in a deep basement area on St James’ Parade, but was short-lived.

  • Pteris umbrosa R.Br. (Jungle Brake) General Very Rare A single plant was found by C. and M.A.R. Kitchen in a disused basement on Rivers Street, Bath in 2009. A native of Australia. This is a first record for Britain. Remarkably, it has persisted here and is now a huge plant measuring over 1m across, but no doubt the basement will be renovated one day and it will be lost.

  • Pteris vittata L. (Ladder Brake) General Extinct Found for the first time at Ashton Court in 1919 by ? (unconfirmed) and was formerly naturalised on a hot colliery tip in West Gloucestershire (Stace).

  • Pteris tremula R.Br. (Tender Brake) General Extinct In 2010 a sixth species was spotted on steps and stonework of a basement area in the Royal Crescent by H.J. Crouch; last seen here in 2017.

CYSTOPTERIDACEAE - Bladder-fern family


  • Gymnocarpium dryopteris (L.) Newman (Oak Fern) 1839 Woodland Extinct Used to occur very sparingly in Leigh Woods where it had been known since at least 1789 until its last mention in 1839. This is the only accepted site although a number of others are reported from N. Somerset; they are probably all mistakes for the next species. White in his Bristol Flora recounts a conversation with Mr. Flower who had explained to him "that this fern formerly grew with some others in a damp hollow, then known as "Fern Glen," near Rownham."

  • Gymnocarpium robertianum (Hoffm.) Newman (Limestone Fern) / General Very rare Only occurs as a native in Goblin Combe where a small patch grows on open-shaded rocky scree - discovered in 1991 by M.A.R.K and C.K. though a mention of it from "Goblin Combe near Cleeve Toot." (White, 1912) may well refer to the same locality. Also used to occur at Brockley and Burrington indicating a once more extensive population in the general area. Recently (2023) found by H.J. Crouch, growing in street drains in Bath not far from a garden where it's known to be grown. The Bath area seems to have had a long history of the fern, for Babbington (1839) new of 3 locations: "Introduced with stone to the garden steps of Widcombe House, Friary Wood near Hinton Abbey, and at Box quarries." It also once existed on "Walls below the canal between Bath and Batheaston; S. T. Dunn." and along the railway line between Bath and Keynsham - "Many plants on lias ledges in the G.W.R. cutting near Saltford; pointed out to Mr. Fry in 1894 by C. Withers, a ganger on the line. Not native in that situation, but probably brought along the railway by traffic from some limestone locality." [Potentially from Babbington's Box quarries locality?] Found "Established on the supporting wall of a platform at Congresbury Station! Miss Roper" and used to grow in Leigh Woods where it was known from around 1789 until 1843 "before the construction of the Suspension Bridge and its approaches, the high ground on the Leigh side, above Nightingale Valley, was a limestone heath and that P. Robertianum grew among the loose stones.” Additionally recorded from Markham Bottom in 2000 by Ben Rose - check!


  • Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh. ssp. fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern) General Scarce Scattered and very local on walls and rocky areas. Mainly found on Carboniferous limestone on the edge of the Mendips and in the Avon Gorge; very sporadic elsewhere. Used to be more abundant.

ASPLENIACEAE - Spleenwort family

ASPLENIUM L. (Phyllitis Hill)

  • Asplenium scolopendrium L. (Phyllitis scolopendrium (L.) Newman) (Hart's-tongue) / General Common throughout the region. Thrives in damp rocky woodland where it can reach an impressive size but just as happily grows on hedgebanks, on fully exposed rock faces, cave entrances and in urban areas on walls, outdoor cellars and even in roadside drains. Occasionally freaky looking forms are found with contorted leaves. White in his Bristol Flora mentions two main varieties: var. crispum - with crisped, frilly frond margins and var. marginatum with fronds much narrower "only about an inch wide, often bifid at the tip, with the margin frilled and showing a distinct seam at the attatchment of the frill." He also mentions the scarcely different var. submarginatum and an unnamed plant discovered by Lobel about the year 1565 on St. Vincent's Rocks with "very short, cordate triangular fronds of fragile texture; thin, soft and sterile." Parkinson later went on to call them "The lesser Mules Ferne." A friend of his - "Clusius saith that Lobel having sent him some of those plants, after hee had kept them in a pot two years because of their tenderness, they changed their forme into the jagged Harts-horn, where-of he much mervailed, for afterwards as he saith when he came into England, hee gathered with his owne hands in the same place the like plants, which there held the form of Hemionitis." Interestingly the map shows an increase in urban areas and a reduction in rural areas. But this could be an artefact of under-recording rather than a genuine decline. But it has certainly increased in urban areas. It is considered an ancient woodland indicator (AWI) in south-west England.

  • Asplenium adiantum-nigrum L. (Black Spleenwort) / General Uncommon Scattered over the region on old walls, hedgebanks and rocky areas (especially on lime-rich rocks). It prefers woodland with lots of exposed rock such as at Glen Frome, N.E. Bristol. In the Gully, Avon Gorge it grows unusually on scree along with Rustyback, Maidenhair Spleenwort and Wall-rue. The map suggests it has declined.

  • Asplenium obovatum Viv. ssp. billotii (F.W.Schultz) Sennen & Mauricio (ssp. lanceolatum (Fiori) Pinto da Silva (Lanceolate Spleenwort) - Woodland

(F.W.Schultz) O.Bolòs, Vigo, Masalles & Ninot (Kew) ssp. lanceolatum (Fiori) Pinto da Silva ((C.Presl) P. Silva - Stace, Kew) (NBN) Very rare Only known in the Frome Valley. Its main stronghold near Oldbury Court Estate was destroyed by a fire in 2017; however it was rediscovered by R.J. Higgins in 2021. Found in a second spot further up the valley in 2004 by I.R. Bonner where 7 clumps of different sizes grew on dryish exposed rocks on the West side of the river between the M4 and A4174 on the Glen Frome Walkway. This site needs re-checking. As explained in White, 1912, Lanceolate Spleenwort was first discovered in "about 1835 by Mr. J. W. Ewing of Norwich" who "pointed it out to Mr. G. H. K. Thwaites" and "speaks of finding the fern in several spots - abundantly in one of them." Swete says "that at his date its area was "not more than half a mile," implying that it occurred over a considerable space." After the publication of its discovery "extensive gathering took place" and "by 1870 no specimen could be obtained without the aid of a quarryman and a rope." By 1912 only a few plants existed at one spot but two new localities were discovered soon after. It has never recovered and has been lingering on the edge of extinction within the region ever since, though it is possible this highly elusive fern could one day be found somewhere else in the valley. Has also been reported several times from the southern portion of our region prior to 1860 but these cannot be confirmed.

  • Asplenium marinum L. (Sea Spleenwort) Coasts Rare Rare in rock crevices and caves of coastal cliffs between Clevedon and Portishead and at Black Rock below Worlebury Hill, Middle Hope and on Steep Holm where it's been long known since Banks and Lightfoot's discovery in 1773. Has been lost from a number of localities but is showing signs of recovery in some and has returned to others. In 2018 M.A.R.K & C.K. discovered more than 15 plants at Bath (over 30km inland) on the outer basement wall of the Guildhall but was tragically destroyed soon after. It presumably arrived here from long-distance spore dispersal and it may return. Only known from N. Somerset but it was "Stated by Swete to have been gathered by Mr. A. Prichard on rocks under the Powder House, Shirehampton." This record was seen as unreliable in White’s day but it is possible it was correct. The earliest known local record is from 1690 by Dr. L. Plukenet - "Filix marina Anglica. Dwarf Sea Fern. At Weston-super-Mare in Somersetshire."

  • Asplenium trichomanes L. ssp. quadrivalens D.E. Mey. (Maidenhair Spleenwort) / General Common The second commonest fern of walls after Wall-rue and usually the second to colonise them. Throughout the region but prefers slightly damper situations than the next species. The map suggests it has declined in urban areas but this is probably an artefact of recording bias. As are others. Recording during the Avon Flora Project in preparation for this book's predecessor (the Flora of the Bristol Region) was so extensive that modern records appear uneven since.

  • Asplenium ruta-muraria L. (Wall-rue) / General Common Widespread on walls (especially those made of stone) and rocky outcrops. The most commonly seen fern of walls and usually the first to colonise them.

  • Asplenium ceterach L. (Ceterach officinarum Willd.) (Rustyback) / General Widespread and frequent on walls (especially mortared limestone walls) and rock faces but appears to be absent from much of the East. A characteristic plant of the Avon Gorge. It has increased in recent years. It often becomes desiccated and shrivelled in drought conditions but persists.

THELYPTERIDACEAE - Marsh Fern family


  • Thelypteris palustris Schott (Marsh Fern) 1915 Wetland Extinct Once grew "On the swampy edge of some water-holes in a marsh between Wraxall and Tickenham" where it was discovered in 1907 by Mr. Arthur E. G. Way and last seen in 1930. The only other site was "in a boggy spot, screened by shrubs and brambles, on the coast between Portishead and Clevedon; R. V. Sherring" - pre 1912.


  • Phegopteris connectilis (Michx.) Watt (Beech Fern) 1977 Woodland Extinct Discovered new to the region in 1952 by G.W. Garlick growing on a damp bank in the Avon Gorge. And persisted until 1977.


  • Oreopteris limbosperma (All.) Holub (Thelypteris limbosperma (All.) H.P.Fuchs - Kew) (Lemon-scented Fern) 1950 General Extinct Used to grow sparingly in woods and on boggy heaths and moorland at Henbury, Conham and Hanham Woods in Gloucestershire and sparingly in Somerset, including: Leigh Woods; Ashton Manor Woods; Charlton Woods, Portbury; Norton's Wood, Clevedon; "in a small combe between Cleeve and Brockley;" "In two boggy hollows near Burrington;" and at Kewstoke Lodge, Weston-super-Mare (White, 1912). Last seen in 1950 by ?. Old names include: Sweet Mountain Fern and Mountain Buckler Fern. AWI. [we could put information like this along with the status]

ATHYRIACEAE - Lady-fern family


  • Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth (Lady Fern) / Woodland Scarce Scattered but very localised in woods and on the shady sides of hedgebanks and ditches on neutral to acidic soils though sometimes occurs where deep soil overlays limestone. Avoids dry conditions but can tolerate swampy situations. Absent from the coastal lowlands and the eastern Cotswold high ground.

BLECHNACEAE - Hard-fern family


  • Blechnum spicant (L.) Roth (Hard-fern) Woodland Uncommon Found locally in acidic woodland or more rarely limestone woodland with leaching; usually in small quantity. Appears to have been lost from a few sites. AWI.

DRYOPTERIDACEAE - Buckler-fern family


  • Polystichum setiferum (Forssk.) T. Moore ex Woyn. (Soft-shield Fern) / Woodland Frequent Widespread and frequent in woods on a range of soils (particularly those which are rocky and close to streams) and hedgebanks; but also occurs on shaded walls and sometimes even in more urban situations such as around drains and gutters.

  • Polystichum setiferum x P. aculeatum = P. x bicknellii (H. Christ) Hahne (Soft x Hard-shield Fern) / Woodland Very Rare Grows where the two parents meet. First noticed in 2014 by H.J. Crouch where a single plant was found growing on a hedgebank on Dumpers Lane, Chew Magna. Later found in 2015 during a BNS meeting at Arnos Vale Cemetery by H.J. Crouch and again that same year between Farrington Gurney and Paulton by P. Watson and also at Compton Martin by H.J. Crouch, and in 2016 was found west of Farrington Gurney on Pitway Lane by H.J. Crouch also. Although there’s only a few records on the map, searching would pay dividends. It should have a similar distribution to that of P. aculeatum because where P. aculeatum grows, P. setiferum usually follows but not the other way round. AWI.

  • Polystichum aculeatum (L.) Roth (Hard-shield Fern) / Woodland Uncommon Much rarer than the last species, found typically in wooded river valleys with steep, damp, rocky ravines; especially those with thin, base-rich soils but also occurs on hedgebanks and occasionally cellar walls. AWI.

  • Polystichum tsus-simense (Hook.) J. Sm. / Polystichum luctuosum (Kunze) T. Moore (Korean Rock-fern) General Very Rare Found in a derelict basement on Riverstreet, Bath where a single plant was found in 2009 by H.J. Crouch, and was last seen here in 2012. In 2020 another plant was found by R.D. Randall, growing on stonework nearby in Abbey Green. This species is now widely grown and could be expected to turn up elsewhere.

  • Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) C. Presl (Western Sword-fern) General Very Rare Discovered for the first time in 2023 by D. Peters where two very out shaded plants were uncovered after Brambles (Rubus armeniacus) were cleared; growing on the side of a ditch at the bottom of Horfield Common, Bristol. The ditch backs onto gardens and it's likely they were originally planted rather than self-sown but they had evidently been there a long time. This is a species which is increasingly grown in gardens and parks and is expected to spread.


  • Cyrtomium fortunei J. Sm. (Fortune's Holly-fern) General Very Rare Found for the first time in 2009 as a small plant on the stonework of a basement in St. James' Parade, Bath where it did not persist. Next seen in 2017 when another plant was found in a basement on Brock Street and again was short-lived but then found soon after in 2019 on the same street in a different basement and in 2020 found at the edge of a footpath in Lambridge. Away from Bath, it has been recorded at Portishead and Chew Magna. Discovered for the first time in the northern part of the region - in 2022 by D. Peters at Westbury Wildlife Park - a young plant growing at the base of an old stone supporting wall just above the high water mark of the River Trym and a second plant was found in Glen Frome at Oldbury Court Estate in 2024 by D. Peters & R.D. Randall. Most recently 2 plants were found next to Fishponds Brook at the back of Meadowsweet Field, Eastville Park by J. Joyce in 2024.

  • Cyrtomium laetevirens (Hiyama) Nakaike (Vigorous Holly-fern) Woodland Very Rare Discovered in 2009 by R. Bland in the Summerhouse Plantation at Ashton Court where about 100 plants covered an area of about 10 x 20m. It was previously recorded as C. falcatum but was recently (2019) redetermined by H.J. Crouch & F. Rumsey.


  • Dryopteris filix-mas (L.) Schott (Male-fern) / General Common Common and widespread throughout the region in woodland, hedgebanks and damp walls. Since The Clean Air Act 1956 came into effect, following the reduction of Sulphur Dioxide this fern has rapidly increased in urban areas, usually growing on the brickwork behind drains and gutters. An increasingly popular form known as 'Linearis Polydactyla' is sometimes grown in gardens from which it occasionally escapes.

Dryopteris filix-mas x D. affinis = D. x complexa Fraser-Jenk. Woodland Very Rare First recorded in 1998 at ? by I.P. Green, then 2000 at ? by J. Night and from Leigh Woods in 2007 by M.J. Striblery. It is certainly under-recorded. This refers to the D. affinis agg. (see below) but it is likely that all 3 critical taxa: nothossp. complexa (with affinis), D. x convoluta (with cambrensis) and D. x critica (with borreri) occur.

  • Dryopteris affinis agg. (Scaly Male-fern) / Woodland Frequent As a species aggregate, locally frequent throughout the region in moist ancient woodland and old hedgebanks. Occasionally found more out in the open. Alternative naming systems are given to naming the following 3 - as distinct species and as subspecies of D. affinis. Only the agg. Is mapped because there’s not sufficient data. There are potentially others but it’s a specialist subject. AWI.

  • Dryopteris affinis (Lowe) Fraser-Jenk. / D. affinis ssp. affinis (Golden Scaly Male-fern) / Woodland Frequent The second most frequent of the agg. AWI.

  • Dryopteris cambrensis (Fraser-Jenk.) Beitel & W.R. Buck / D. affinis ssp. cambrensis Fraser-Jenk. (Narrow Scaly Male-fern) / Woodland Rare Scattered and rare but probably under recorded. Found by D. Peters at Moorgrove Wood in 2022. AWI.

  • Dryopteris borreri (Newman) Newman ex Oberh. & Tavel / D. affinis ssp. borreri (Newman) Fraser-Jenk. (Borrer's Scaly Male-fern) / Woodland Frequent The commonest of the Dryopteris affinis agg.; making up the majority of records. AWI.

  • Dryopteris submontana (Fraser-Jenk. & Jermy) Fraser-Jenk. (D. mindshelkensis Pavlov - Kew) (Rigid Buckler-fern) 1866 General Extinct A single plant "discovered in 1853 on Hampton Rocks near Bath by the Rev. J. E. Vize." It "had been doubtless planted there by a fern collector named Potter, who was well known to make a practice of such planting." (White, 1912) It soon disappeared as it was last seen in 1866.

  • Dryopteris carthusiana (Vill.) H.P. Fuchs (Narrow Buckler-fern) Woodland Very Rare Very rare but has been discovered in several new localities in recent years away from its strongholds of Compton Dando, Lord’s Wood and Weston-in-Gordano. Lower Woods to the North of the region in particular being a good addition. Boggy places in woods and copses.

  • Dryopteris dilatata (Hoffm.) A.Gray (Broad Buckler-fern) / Woodland Frequent Frequent in old woods and hedgerows and occasionally under Bracken and scrub, damp cellar walls and other man-made surfaces. Occasionally colonises plant pots.

POLYPODIACEAE - Polypody family


  • Polypodium vulgare L. (Common Polypody) / General Uncommon Widespread but generally restricted to ancient woodland where it grows mainly as an epiphyte on ancient oaks but also on banks and old stone walls, preferring more acidic substrates. It is both over-recorded and under-recorded for Intermediate Polypody - P. interjectum. There has been confusion between the two species which leads to recording based on presumption. It’s highly likely that most records outside of ancient woodland are mistakes as can be seen along the river Avon about Central Bristol. AWI.

  • Polypodium vulgare x P. interjectum = P. x mantoniae Rothm. & U. Schneid. (Rothm. - Kew) (Manton's Polypody, Common x Intermediate Polypody) General Very Rare First found by Towerhead Brook near Sandford, N. Somerset in 1984 by P. Green. Then discovered shortly afterwards along Nye Drove, by E.J.McDonnell & R. FitzGerald in 1985 and determined by R.H. Roberts [possibly the same plant]. More recently in 2015 a large patch was found growing on a hedge bank between Compton Martin and East Harptree by H.J. Crouch. It is undoubtedly under-recorded and is probably scattered throughout the region.

  • Polypodium interjectum Shivas (Intermediate Polypody) / General Frequent By far the commonest Polypody in the region, growing on a range of rocky exposures and old stone work, hedgebanks and occasionally old roofs but grows just as happily as an epiphyte on a variety of mature trees and shrubs.The most unusual find is one made by D. Peters in 2021 of a well established population growing on the slats underneath a shop front awning on Union St in the middle of the City Centre!

  • Polypodium interjectum x P. cambricum = P. x shivasiae Rothm. (Shivas' Polypody, Intermediate x Southern Polypody) Very Rare A single record was made from the Leigh Woods side of the Avon Gorge in 2007 by M.J. Striblery. Probably under-recorded here and should exist sparsely throughout the range of P. cambricum.

  • Polypodium cambricum L. (Southern Polypody) / General Rare Locally common in the Avon Gorge where it grows both on rock faces and as an epiphyte. Very scattered elsewhere. We are very dubious about its distribution prior to 2000. Most records no doubt belong to P. interjectum.


  • Phymatosorus diversifolius (Willd.) Pic. Serm. (Lecanopteris pustulata (G. Forst.) Perrie & Brownsey ssp. pustulata) (Kangaroo Fern) General Very Rare A single plant found at Tyntesfield growing on the trunk of an Australian Tree-fern (Dicksonia antarctica) was found in 2019 by H.J. Crouch - likely brought over accidently with the tree-fern.