It is most abundant in areas with high humidity, such as the British Isles and western France; in the Mediterranean region and the Caucasus it is confined to high altitudes. It commonly grows on moist soils in woodlands.
Dryopteris affinis is virtually evergreen and bears dark green fronds 60–160 cm (24–63 in) long, moderately stiff and hard-textured, bipinnate, with the pinnae opposite on the rachis. The rachis at the base of the frond is densely covered in yellow-brown scales known as ramenta. Each pinna is 8–18 cm (3–7 in) long, the pinnules broad rectangular with a slightly serrated margin, and decreasing in size only close to the pinna tip.
Individual fronds live for about 1.5 years and remain attached to the rhizome after withering. D. affinis is closely related to Dryopteris filix-mas, distinguished by its usually more robust habit with usually more evergreen fronds, more densely scaly frond stems, and more rectangular (less tapered and lobed) pinnae and pinnules.
It is one of the larger European native ferns, with older specimens developing a dense, almost tree fern-like base up to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) high and 30–40 cm (12–16 in) broad.
- D. affinis
- 'Polydactyla Mapplebeck'
- 'Crispa Gracilis'
- 'Cristata Angustata'
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- "Dryopteris affinis". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- "Dryopteris affinis (Polydactyla group) 'Polydactyla Mapplebeck'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- "Dryopteris affinis 'Crispa Gracilis'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- "Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- "Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata Angustata'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- Flora Europaea: Dryopteris affinis
- Hyde, H. A., Wade, A. E., & Harrison, S. G. (1978). Welsh Ferns. National Museum of Wales.