Common Polypody Polypodium vulgare

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
common polypody


Commonly known as the common polypody, this plant presents itself with a distinct appearance characteristic of ferns. The leaves, known as fronds, emerge in clusters, displaying an array of green hues. Each frond is divided into smaller leaflets, which are arranged in an alternating pattern along a central stem that is slightly hairy and may range in color from light brown to reddish-brown. The leaflets have smooth edges and a leathery texture, often appearing glossy and reflecting sunlight strikingly. On the underside of these fronds, one can observe sori, which are small, rounded structures containing spores. These sori are often arranged in neat rows and contribute to the reproductive process of the plant. The common polypody typically grows in clumps that cover the ground and thrives in various habitats, often preferring shaded areas with well-drained soil. When looking at the plant's base, it typically features creeping rhizomes that help it spread and establish a presence in its environment. The combination of its vivid green foliage and ground-covering nature makes it a charming addition to shaded garden areas or woodland settings.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Common Polypody, Rock Cap Fern, Rock Polypody, Common Polypody Fern.

    • Common names

      Polypodium virginianum, Polypodium hexagonopterum, Polypodium lanceolatum, Polypodium australe, Polypodium boryanum, Polypodium heracleum, Polypodium lanceolatum, Polypodium rutifolium.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Common polypody, which is the most common name for Polypodium vulgare, is generally not considered toxic to humans. There are no well-documented cases of poisoning from ingesting this plant, suggesting that it is safe for human consumption in moderate quantities. However, eating any non-culinary plant can carry risks if not properly identified or prepared, and individual allergies or sensitivities could potentially cause adverse reactions.

    • To pets

      Common polypody is not known to be toxic to pets. There is no widespread evidence to suggest that pets, such as dogs and cats, would experience poisoning from ingesting parts of this plant. However, as with humans, ingestion of non-food plants can sometimes cause mild gastrointestinal upset in pets due to the novelty and fiber content. Always monitor pets around plants and consult a veterinarian if any concerning symptoms arise after ingestion.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      1 foot (30 cm)

    • Spread

      2 feet (60 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Use: Polypodium vulgare, commonly known as common polypody, is often grown for its aesthetic appeal in gardens and terrariums due to its attractive fern foliage.
    • Low Maintenance: Common polypody is a hardy plant that requires little care once established, making it ideal for low-maintenance landscapes.
    • Shade Tolerance: This fern thrives in shady conditions where other plants might struggle, adding greenery to darker areas of the garden.
    • Drought Resistance: Though it prefers moist environments, common polypody can tolerate periods of drought, which makes it versatile in various climate conditions.
    • Cultural Significance: Common polypody has a rich history in folklore and traditional uses, contributing to cultural heritage and ethnobotanical interest.
    • Wildlife Habitat: The dense foliage provides shelter and breeding grounds for insects and other small wildlife, contributing to biodiversity.
    • Soil Erosion Control: The spreading habit and rhizomatous roots help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, especially in shaded, sloped areas.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Anti-inflammatory: Polypodium vulgare contains compounds that may help reduce inflammation.
    • Antioxidant: The fern is known to have antioxidant properties, potentially helping to protect the body's cells from damage.
    • Immune-modulating: It might have properties that modulate the immune system, although this effect is not fully understood.
    • Laxative: Polypodium vulgare has traditionally been used as a mild laxative.
    • Antihelminthic: The plant has been used historically to treat parasitic worm infections.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Polypodium vulgare, also known as common polypody, can be used as a natural dye for textiles, providing shades of yellow, green, or brown depending on mordants used.
    • The fronds of common polypody can be pressed and used in botanical prints or herbarium collections for educational purposes or art projects.
    • It is sometimes used in vivariums and terrariums, creating a naturalistic environment for reptiles and amphibians due to its tolerance of humid conditions.
    • Common polypody may be included in ornamental garden designs as groundcover, especially in shade gardens where few other plants can thrive.
    • The plant's rhizomes have been historically used to stuff pillows, believed to offer a restful sleep thanks to their aromatic qualities.
    • In landscape photography and painting, the presence of common polypody can add a sense of wildness and natural beauty to compositions, especially in woodland settings.
    • Eco-friendly furniture designers have used the plant's forms as inspiration for patterns on textiles and decorative details on wooden furniture.
    • During festive seasons, particularly in traditional European celebrations, common polypody fronds may be used as green decoration similar to holly or mistletoe.
    • It can serve as an indicator species in forest ecosystems, signaling good air quality and the presence of certain soil types.
    • The spores of common polypody are occasionally used in craft projects, much like glitter or confetti, to add a natural element to art works.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Common Polypody is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Common Polypody is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: The common polypody, Polypodium vulgare, is known for its hardiness and ability to grow in various conditions, including rocky areas and tree trunks, symbolizing the ability to thrive despite hardships.
    • Eternity: As an evergreen fern, common polypody retains its green fronds throughout the year, representing perpetual life and immortality.
    • Endurance: The common polypody can survive in shade and low-nutrient environments, symbolizing endurance and the capacity to sustain oneself through tough times.
    • Protection: In some cultures, ferns like common polypody are believed to ward off negative energies and evil spirits, making them a symbol of protection.
    • Health and Wellness: Historically, the common polypody was used for its medicinal properties, thus symbolizing health and healing.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-4 years
Spring-Early Summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    The Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare) should be watered when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, typically every one to two weeks, depending on the humidity and temperature of its environment. Use room temperature water and avoid getting water on the fronds to prevent fungal diseases. In terms of quantity, providing about 8-16 ounces of water for a medium-sized pot is usually sufficient, allowing any excess to drain out of the bottom. Reduce watering in the winter months when the plant’s growth slows down.

  • sunLight

    The Common Polypody thrives in partial to full shade, avoiding direct sunlight, which can scorch its leaves. It prefers the dappled light similar to its natural woodland habitat. A north-facing window or a spot that receives filtered sunlight is ideal for the Common Polypody to flourish indoors.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Common Polypody prefers a temperature range of 50-70°F and can tolerate a minimum of 30°F for short periods. Ideal conditions mimic a temperate forest floor, so prolonged exposure to temperatures above 80°F or below freezing should be avoided to ensure plant health.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning the Common Polypody is generally only necessary to remove any brown or damaged fronds to maintain its appearance and health. This can be done at any time of year as needed. It's best to prune in the spring to make way for new growth and to keep the plant looking its best.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Common polypody thrives in a well-draining soil mix consisting of equal parts peat, loam, and sharp sand, promoting good aeration and moisture retention. The soil pH should be slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 5.5 to 7.0, to mimic its natural woodland habitat conditions.

  • plantRepotting

    Common polypody does not need frequent repotting and can be repotted every 2 to 3 years or when it visibly outgrows its container. It's important to refresh the soil mix during repotting to maintain soil health and support growth.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Common polypody favors high humidity levels, ideally between 60% and 80%, to replicate their natural humid forest habitats. This plant flourishes in environments that maintain consistent moisture in the air without direct watering on the foliage.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place in bright, indirect light and maintain high humidity.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in dappled shade, ensure soil is moist and well-draining.

    • Hardiness zone

      5-9 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Commonly known as the common polypody, Polypodium vulgare begins its life cycle as a spore released from the mature fern. When the spore lands in a suitable moist environment, it germinates and grows into a prothallus, which is a small, heart-shaped gametophyte. The prothallus contains both male and female reproductive organs, allowing it to self-fertilize or cross-fertilize when water allows sperm to swim to an egg. Upon successful fertilization, a zygote is formed, which then develops into a new sporophyte fern, completing the cycle. This young fern grows through vegetative expansion, developing rhizomes and fronds, the latter unfurling as they mature. The mature fern eventually produces sori on the undersides of its fronds, which are clusters of sporangia where new spores are produced, ready to disperse and start the life cycle again.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • Propogation: The common polypody, scientifically known as Polypodium vulgare, can be propagated through division, which is the most popular method. This process is ideally carried out in the spring just as the plants are coming out of dormancy. To propagate through division, gently lift the parent plant from the soil and carefully separate the rhizomes, ensuring that each division has at least one frond and a part of the root system. You should then plant these segments in a mix of peat and perlite or a well-draining potting mix, placing them at the same depth they were growing before. Once divided, the plant segments should be watered thoroughly and kept in a shaded area until new growth indicates successful establishment.

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