Species Profile

Lemmon's Holly Fern

Scientific Name: Polystichum lemmonii
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2003
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: D1+2
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This species consists of a single small population occurring within a geographically highly restricted area of specialized habitat. The habitat consists of shallow soils over serpentine bedrock high in heavy metals. The population is considerably disjunct from other such populations in the adjoining state to the south and occurs in an area potentially subject to mineral extraction.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in May 2003.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Lemmon's Holly Fern

Lemmon's Holly Fern Photo 1
Lemmon's Holly Fern Photo 2



The Lemmon's Holly Fern is an evergreen perennial that keeps its fronds (compound leaves) for at least 12 months — usually until the new growth has begun. The fronds are 10 to 40 cm long and 3 to 7 cm wide, with 20 to 35 oval pinnae (leaflets) on either side.


Distribution and Population

Restricted to western North America, the Lemmon’s Holly Fern occurs sporadically from south central British Columbia south to Washington and Oregon in the United States. Its main range is in southern Oregon and northern California. In Canada, a single isolated population is known from the Baldy Mountain area on the eastern side of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. A 2001 count revealed a total of 853 plants over 2.4 ha; the population contained numerous younger plants that appeared vigorous. A collection made in 1987 mentions a population size of “perhaps a thousand plants” — indicating that the population has remained relatively stable for at least the last 15 years.



Lemmon's Holly Fern grows within a highly restricted area of specialized habitat where there is shallow soil, rich in heavy metals, over serpentine bedrock. These basic soils support a very sparse groundcover, and are treeless and dry, contrasting sharply with the surrounding montane forests.



Plants adapted to the habitat preferred by Lemmon's Holly Fern are able to tolerate low levels of calcium, nitrate, phosphorous, and molybdenum and high levels of magnesium, chromium, and nickel. Ferns in this family are known to reproduce sexually, by producing spores, and also vegetatively, by spreading underground stems (rhizomes). The site in British Columbia is on dry, rapidly drained soil that is not conducive to spore germination. It is likely that most of the growth here is vegetative, and that there are large clumps of genetically identical individuals.



There are no imminent threats to this population of Lemmon's Holly Fern. The most serious potential threats are mineral extraction and quarrying of gravel for road construction, which could destroy the rock outcrops to which the fern is restricted. Due to its limited range, the fern is also vulnerable to chance events.



Federal Protection

The Lemmon's Holly Fern is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Lemmon's Holly Fern population in British Columbia is on public land, but the land is not part of a protected area.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Lemmon’s Holly Fern (Polystichum lemmonii) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Team for the Lemmon's Holly Fern

  • Brenda Costanzo - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 250-387-9611  Fax: 250-356-9145  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on Lemmon’s Holly Fern Polystichum lemmonii in Canada (2003-05-01)

    Polystichum lemmonii is an evergreen, perennial, tufted fern arising from a short, stout rhizome. The decumbent to ascending fronds are 10-40 cm long, 3-7 cm wide and 2-pinnate. The 20-35 pinnae on each side of the rachis are ovate with rounded pinnules. The ultimate segments are entire or weakly toothed. The round sori are attached near the midvein with entire or minutely toothed indusia.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Lemmon's Holly Fern (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Lemmon’s Holly Fern (Polystichum lemmonii) in Canada (2013-05-14)

    The federal Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Lemmon’s Holly Fern and has prepared this recovery strategy as per section 37 of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). Environment Canada has adopted the British Columbia recovery strategy and prepared a federal addition to meet the requirements of SARA.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004-04-21)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 139, number 2, 2005) (2005-01-12)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004-03-03)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
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