The common ‘Sword Fern’, Polystichum munitum, is an evergreen fern standing up to 1.5 m tall, shrinking as one travels north. The leaves are produced from a woody rhizome, standing erect or arching a bit. The stipe of the leaf is scaly and the blade is once-pinnate appearing as alternate toothed leaves with incurved spine tips, each with a small lobe that points forward near the base. The sori form circles equidistant from the midvein and margin of the leaf and have a rounded, fringe-edged undusium that is centrally attached.
The native coastal people historically used the leaves as a protective layer in pit ovens, storage boxes, baskets, or on drying racks. They were also used as flooring and bedding. The rhizomes were dug and eaten after being roasted over a fire or cooked in a pit oven and peeled. The rhizome was also thought to cure diarrhea.
All Polystichum species are big, tufted, evergreen, possessing round sori with centrally attached indusium. There are six other species known in the northwest: P. braunii, P. setigerum, P. lonchitis and P. imbricans.
Pojar, J. and A. McKinnon (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Washington, Canada.