E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) C. Presl
sword fern (western swordfern)
Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Adolf Ceska  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #20799)

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Distribution of Polystichum munitum
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Species Information

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Evergreen perennial arising from a short, stout rhizome.
Lanceolate, 20-150 cm long, 5-25 cm wide, 1-pinnate; pinnae oblong, all of them more or less in one plane, with spreading teeth.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic forests in the lowland and montane zones; common in coastal BC, rare in SC and SE BC south of 54degreeN, rare northward; N to AK and S to SD, MT, ID and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Polystichum munitum

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 229 2050
Slope Gradient (%) 0 24 220
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 236 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(315), CWH(2153), ESSF(4), ICH(12), IDF(24), MH(18), MS(5)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to subalpine, Westem North American fern distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in cool mesothermal climates on nitrogen-rich soils; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Widespread in forest understories. Persists on cutover sites, sporadic to scattered on water-shedding sites, plentiful to abundant (frequently dominant) on water­receiving and colluvial sites enriched by surface flow of fine organic materials. Commonly associated with Achlys triphylla, Mahonia nervosa, and Tiarella trifoliata. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Polystichum munitum var. incisoserratum (D.C. Eaton) Underw.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References