Ferns can be discovered in almost any habitat within Shenandoah National Park. These primitive vascular plants reproduce through spores instead of seeds, and can live anywhere from the rich moist soil around a spring, to the dry crevice in a cliff face. The Park supports approximately 60 species of fern and an additional 20 species of related spore producing plants (fern allies) such as club mosses and horsetails.
Shenandoah's mid-Atlantic location straddles the ranges of both northern and southern adapted species creating relatively high fern diversity. Some species in the park such as the Goldie's wood fern (Dryopteris goldiana), and the rusty cliff fern (Woodsia ilvensis) are adapted to high elevation habitats characteristic of more northern forests. Other species such as the Netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), and the hairy lip fern (Cheilanthes lanosa) are more characteristic of the southern states.