An adventurous fox cub peeks through the ferns

Ferns are a diverse group of plants that are known for their lush, green foliage and delicate fronds. They are a popular choice for indoor and outdoor gardens and are often used as ornamental plants in landscaping.

However, there is some concern that ferns may be toxic to wildlife, and this has led many people to question whether they should be planting these plants in their gardens.

In this blog post, we will examine the evidence for and against the toxicity of ferns to wildlife, and discuss some of the factors that may influence their potential to cause harm.

The Potential Toxicity of Ferns on Wildlife

There is some evidence to suggest that certain species of ferns may be toxic to certain types of wildlife. For example, the bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) is known to contain toxins that can cause serious health problems in livestock, such as cattle and sheep.

These toxins, which are known as ptaquilosides, can accumulate in the animal’s tissues and organs over time, leading to the development of cancer and other diseases.

Other ferns, such as the deer fern (Blechnum spicant), have been shown to be toxic to deer, causing digestive problems and other health issues. In addition, there are several species of ferns that are known to be toxic to humans, including the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata).

Despite this evidence, it is important to note that the vast majority of ferns are not toxic to wildlife or humans. In fact, many species of ferns are actually edible and have been used as a food source by indigenous people around the world for centuries. It is also worth noting that the toxic effects of ferns on wildlife are often highly species-specific, meaning that they only affect certain types of animals and not others.

Brown cow bull feeding in ferns
Brown cow bull feeding in ferns

Factors that Influence the Toxicity of Ferns on Wildlife

There are several factors that can influence the potential toxicity of ferns to wildlife. One of the most important factors is the species of fern in question. As mentioned above, some species of ferns are known to be toxic to certain types of animals, while others are not. It is also worth noting that the toxicity of ferns can vary depending on the stage of growth of the plant.

For example, young ferns may be more toxic than mature plants, and certain parts of the fern (such as the roots or spores) may be more toxic than others.

Another factor that can influence the toxicity of ferns to wildlife is the environment in which the plants are growing. Different conditions (such as soil pH, nutrient availability, and temperature) can affect the concentration of toxins in the ferns, and this can in turn affect their potential to cause harm. For example, ferns that are growing in nutrient-poor soils may be more toxic than those growing in nutrient-rich soils.

Minimizing the Risk of Fern Toxicity to Wildlife

If you are concerned about the potential toxicity of ferns to wildlife, there are several steps you can take to minimize the risk. One of the most important things you can do is to choose your ferns carefully. Avoid planting species that are known to be toxic to animals (such as the bracken fern), and consider choosing species that are less likely to be harmful (such as the Boston fern).

In addition, it is a good idea to keep your ferns well-maintained and monitored. Monitor the growth of your plants, and remove any dead or dying fronds as soon as possible.

Finally, if you are planting ferns in a garden that is frequented by wildlife (such as deer), it is important to ensure that they are kept away from areas where the animals can access them. By taking these steps, you can help to reduce the risk of fern toxicity to wildlife.

In conclusion

Ferns can be toxic to certain types of wildlife, such as deer and livestock. However, the vast majority of ferns are not toxic to either humans or animals.

By choosing your fern species carefully and keeping them well-maintained, you can help to reduce the risk of toxicity and ensure that your ferns are safe for wildlife.