The Christmas fern, is popular in cultivation as an ornamental plant for gardens and natural landscaping, because it is easy to grow and can be used in many settings and soils. Because it's evergreen, Christmas fern is often used in winter gardens as well.
Grows in a circular form with all the leaves arising from a single point on the ground. It can form colonies but frequently grows singly or in twos or threes. In the winter the fertile leaves (leaves bearing spores) die and the sterile leaves will remain through the winter but are often laid down by snow or frost. The frond is supported by a stipe, or stem, which is typically 1/4 or 1/3 the length of the total leaf. The stipe is black to very dark brown at the base and fades to green as it continues toward the tip. It is also covered in coarse light brown to tan scales which are typically about 5 mm long and translucent, the stipe itself is grooved on the upward side. As the stem continues toward the tip of the leaf the size and density of the scales decreases. The young fiddleheads, also known as crosiers, are a scaly grey and prominent in early spring.
The fronds grow from 30 to 80 cm long and 5 to 12 cm broad, divided into 20 to 35 pairs of leaflets or pinnae. Each pinnae is typically 4 cm long and has a finely serrulate or spiny edge and is oblong to falcate in shape. The fine teeth or spines on edge of the leaf point toward the tip of the leaflet. Each pinnae has a triangular lobe at its base which points toward the distal end (tip) of the leaf; this protrusion is approximately 5 mm wide and equally tall and its tip bears a small spine. The lowest two leaflets are typically downward pointing and opposite to each other. The leaves are overall a dark green and rather leathery and thick in texture, their undersides may be covered in very sparse hairs; their shape can be described as linear to lanceolate shaped. The light brown spores are produced on pinnae which are conspicuously smaller than the pinnae below them; these pinnae are located at the tip of the frond.