Dryopteris filix-mas

Male fern

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Origin: Eurasia, North America

Underside of Male Fern frond with sori close up.
Once sori are mature, spores are released into the environment. These can be spread by wind or water.
Photo credit: John Barkla

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Whole region — Sustained control
  • Hauraki Gulf Controlled Area Notice pest

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Perennial, rhizomatous fern. Leaves are < 125 x 30 cm and bipinnate. Sori are round and produced in autumn – winter, with 1-5 pairs produced per secondary pinnae.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell male fern within the Auckland region.
  • You must not plant male fern within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any male fern on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.


Riparian margins, rocky sites, regenerating scrubland, forest, pasture, plantations.


Spores dispersed by wind.

Impact on environment

May competitively displace native forest-dwelling ferns.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Spores on leaves.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray with 1g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Underside of Male Fern frond with sori.
Forms rhizomes underground that can spread the fern through the forest floor. Can out-compete native ferns.
Photo credit: John Barkla
Male Fern growing on clay bank.
Can grow in a range of habitats from damp riparian margins to open scrubland. Spores mature in winter when rain can help with their spread.
Photo credit: John Barkla
Single Male Fern frond in pine forest.
Fronds can grow up to 125 cm long and grow in low light conditions of the forest floor. Prefers damp shady areas but can survive in full sun.
Photo credit: John Barkla