Holly Fern

Latin name: Polystichum lonchitis

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Holly ferns are an evergreen, long-lived, slightly spikey fern. They are well suited to the Yorkshire Dales as they like the deep grikes of open limestone pavement habitats at high altitudes and summer temperatures that aren’t too high!

The core area for Holly fern in the UK is northern and western Scotland above 600m. But it also has important localised populations above 180m in central Scotland, western Ireland and northern England. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park most records were found on limestone pavement habitats in Malhamdale and Ribblesdale.

Between 2004 and 2011, experienced local naturalists, the Yorkshire Fern Group and the Botanical Society the British Isles (BSBI) have carried out Holly fern surveys. These have contributed towards the BSBI Threatened Plants Project nationally. We were delighted to find this rare species alive and well on a number of sites in the Dales. Now that more is known about the local populations the appropriate habitat management can be encouraged in these areas including appropriate grazing levels.

At risk?

Its status on the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain (2005) is Vulnerable. It is a UKBAP priority species, in the BSBI's National Threatened Plants Project and is a Local BAP species in Nature in the Dales: 2020 Vision. There is a concern that populations of Holly fern may decline significantly should predicted models of global temperature rise be realised.

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The unfolding of Grass Wood throughout the year is a story of rich fulfilment. From 'Wharfedale' by Ella Pontefract & Marie Hartley

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