Partially-shaded wet and moist habitats are the preferred environments for Athyrium filix-femina, or the lady-fern (filix meaning “fern” and femina meaning “female”), shown here in the foreground. Abiqua Falls and its moisture-trapping basaltic amphitheatre provide an ideal growing location for this Northern Hemisphere species.
Lady-fern is cultivated for ornamental use in shade and woodland gardens; the species is the recipient of an RHS Award of Garden Merit, while Great Plant Picks has chosen the cultivar ‘Frizelliae’ among its garden-worthy selections.
The fiddleheads of lady-fern have been generally ignored as food, noted by the Plants for a Future database as containing “thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex” if eaten raw. With cooking, some First Nations apparently ate them as a “bitter emergency food”.
Lastly, a word of caution to anyone doing the short hike to Abiqua Falls: bring a friend or adequate footwear and hiking poles, as that was one of the slickest trails I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.