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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Crested Shieldfern - Dryopteris cristata

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank: 3
C-value: 9

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Rare to uncommon in Montana where it is known from scattered occurrences across the western portion of the state. Most documented occurrences are on National Forest lands, though State Trust Lands and private lands also host significant populations.
General Description
Crested Shieldfern is an herbaceous perennial with clustered fronds arising from a short rhizome. The stalked fronds have narrowly elliptic blades pinnately divided into numerous pairs of pinnately lobed leaflets, or pinnae. The fertile fronds, 3-6 dm long, are erect and deciduous, while the sterile ones are evergreen, smaller, and more lax. Clusters of spores, or sori are borne along either side of the pinnae midveins on the underside of fertile fronds. Sori are covered by a whitish, broadly horseshoe-shaped membrane, or indusium.

Mature fronds in July-August, spores in early July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The broadly horseshoe-shaped indusium identifies this species as a Dryopteris. Other members of the genus in our area have more highly divided leaves and sterile and fertile fronds that are similar to each other.

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
In MT in Flathead, Lake, Missoula, Ravalli and Beaverhead counties; circumboreal south to ID, IL, and GA (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 57

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Moist to wet, often organic soils at the forest margins of fens and swamps in the montane zone.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Britton, D.M. 1972. The spores of Dryopteris clintoniana and its relatives. Canadian Journal of Botany 50:2027-2029.
    • Bursik, R. J., and R. K. Moseley. 1992. Forty-year changes in Hager Lake Fen, Bonner County, Idaho. Cooperative Challenge Cost-share Project, Idaho Panhandle National Forests and Idaho Conservation Data Center, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise. 31 pp.
    • Caicco, S. L. 1987. Field investigations of selected sensitive plant species on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Idaho Natural Heritage Program, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise, Idaho. 44 pp.
    • Carlson, T.M. and W.H. Wagner 1982. The North American distribution of the genus Dryopteris. Contributions from the University of Michigan Herbarium 15:141-162.
    • Cody, W.J., and D.M. Britton. 1985. Male fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, a phytogeographically important discovery in northern Saskatchewan. Canadian Field-Naturalist 99(1):101.
    • Greuter, W., B. Zimmer, and H.-D. Bdhnke (eds.). 1987. Abstracts from the XIV International Botanical Congress. 24 July-01 Aug. Berlin, Germany. p. 272.
    • Lellinger, D.B. 1985. A Field Manual of the Ferns and Fern-Allies of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Inst. Press. Washington, D.C. B85LEL01PAUS
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Crested Shieldfern — Dryopteris cristata.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from