A single fern leaf growing at the base of a tree

Ferns are a diverse group of plants that are prized for their lush, green foliage and ability to thrive in a variety of environments.

They are often used as decorative plants in homes, gardens, and public spaces, and are known for their low maintenance requirements and ability to purify the air.

But despite their popularity and widespread use, there is a common misconception that ferns are poisonous. In this article, we will examine the truth behind this myth and explore the potential risks and benefits of having ferns in your home or garden.

Are Ferns Poisonous to Humans?

Contrary to popular belief, most ferns are not poisonous to humans. In fact, many species of ferns have been used for centuries as a source of food and medicine by indigenous cultures around the world.

However, it is important to note that there are a few species of ferns that may be toxic if ingested. These include the bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and the horsetail fern (Equisetum spp.), both of which contain high levels of thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down thiamine (vitamin B1).

Thiamine deficiency can lead to a variety of health problems, including neurological disorders and muscle weakness.

Additionally, some ferns may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. This is more likely to occur with ferns that produce spores, as the spores can irritate the skin or respiratory system when inhaled.

Various ferns planted within the garden
Various ferns planted within the garden

Are Ferns Poisonous to Pets?

While most ferns are not poisonous to humans, some species may be toxic to pets. The bracken fern and horsetail fern, which are toxic to humans, are also toxic to animals. Ingestion of these ferns can cause gastrointestinal distress, muscle weakness, and neurological problems in pets.

Other species of ferns that may be toxic to pets include the asparagus fern (Asparagus spp.), the calla lily (Zantedeschia spp.), and the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata). These ferns can cause digestive upset, skin irritation, and other adverse reactions in pets.

It is important to keep all plants, including ferns, out of reach of pets and to supervise pets when they are in areas where plants are present. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Nephrolepis exaltata The Sword Fern species of fern in the family Lomariopsidaceae
Nephrolepis exaltata The Sword Fern species of fern in the family Lomariopsidaceae

Benefits of Ferns

While it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with ferns, it is also worth noting the many benefits of having these plants in your home or garden. Some of the benefits of ferns include:

  • Air purification: Like many plants, ferns are natural air purifiers. They absorb toxins and pollutants from the air and release oxygen, making them a great choice for improving indoor air quality.
  • Moisture regulation: Many ferns are effective at regulating humidity levels and adding moisture to the air, making them ideal for dry indoor environments.
  • Decorative appeal: Ferns come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, making them a versatile and attractive addition to any space.
  • Low maintenance: Ferns are generally easy to care for and require minimal attention. They can thrive in a variety of environments and are resistant to pests and diseases.

In conclusion

Ferns are not generally poisonous to humans, although a few species may cause digestive problems or skin irritation in sensitive individuals. Additionally, some species of ferns may be toxic to pets.

Despite these potential risks, ferns offer many benefits and can be a great addition to any home or garden. Just be sure to research any new plants carefully before bringing them into your environment.

And finally, always keep your plants out of reach of pets and children to ensure their safety. With the right precautions, ferns can be a beautiful and beneficial addition to your home or garden.