Are Ferns Poisonous?

The Fern is one of the oldest classes of nonflowering types of plants on earth. This perennial plant is flowerless and seedless. A Fern is a vascular plant that reproduces through spores. There are over 10,500 identified species of ferns. A popular landscape and houseplant due to it’s tropical look, families with children and pets will need to do their research before selecting a Fern. 

Some species of Ferns release spores that can cause poisoning through oral ingestion. The spores can contain toxins which endanger the health of humans and animals. The severity of the toxic effect depends on the type. The ill effects in people can range from nausea to cardiac issues. Toxic effects in pets that nibble on a Fern can be gastrointestinal issues. Contact your doctor or veterinarian if you suspect Fern poisoning. 

Are Ferns Poisonous to Children

With its floppy fronds and exotic look, young children may be drawn to touching or tasting a household Fern. Be aware that some species of Fern can be toxic to children. To be on the safe side, doing a bit of research will help you find a non-toxic variety of Fern. Here are a few non-toxic varieties.

  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum Pedatum)
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
  • Holly Fern (Cyrtomium Falcatum)
  • Staghorn Fern (Platycerium Sp.)
  • Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus)


It is always a good idea to keep children away from touching or ingesting all types of plants to be safe. 

Are Ferns Poisonous to Dogs

Not all species of Ferns are toxic to dogs. But ingestion of some types of Ferns, such as Emerald Ferns, can cause mild to moderate symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain. An Emerald Fern contains a steroid which can be toxic to dogs. The symptoms may last a few days, but it is always a good idea to contact your veterinarian if you suspect your canine has ingested any plant material. 

Most common varieties of ferns such as these are considered non-toxic to dogs. 

  • Staghorn Fern
  • Boston Ferns
  • Staghorn Fern
  • Birds Nest fern
  • Maidenhair Fern

Are Ferns Poisonous to Cats

Cats and kittens are naturally curious creatures. The floppy fronds of a Fern can be an inviting toy for your feline to bat at. The good news is, most true ferns are safe for cats. If your interested cat nibbles at your plant, she most likely will not be harmed. Refer to ASPCA for more information, but these ferns are considered “true ferns” and typically safe for cats and kittens. 

  • Boston Fern
  • Sword Fern
  • Button Fern
  • Mother Fern
  • Carrot Fern
  • Maidenhair Fern
  • Staghorn Fern
  • Rabbit’s Foot Fern
  • Button Fern
  • Bird’s Nest Fern

On the other hand, Asparagus Ferns (Emerald Ferns, Sprengeri Ferns, or Lace Ferns) are considered toxic to Felines. The leaves are toxic and the ingestion of the berries can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and drooling. Repeated rubbing up against the plants can cause skin irritations. It is best to remember that ingestion of any plant material can cause gastrointestinal issues in cats. If you suspect that your feline friend has ingested parts of a Fern plant, or any plant material. It is best to contact your veterinarian or the  Pet Poison Hotline (855) 764-7661.


Are Ferns Poisonous to Other Animals

A type of fern that grows on hillsides, pastures, and woodlands is called the Bracken Fern. The Fern is toxic to cattle, sheep, and horses. 

Symptoms of Fern Poisoning

It is best to check with your veterinarian if you suspect Fern poisoning. Common symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Drooling
  • Skin irritations

Pet Poison Helpline

If something were to happen to your furry friend, and you suspect that they are suffering from Fern poisoning, contact the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 764-7661.

Click here for a complete list of Pet Safe Plants.


Sources: "Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List." American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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 Author Maureen Farmer - Published 11-17-2021