Fishbone Fern

(Also known as Sword Fern)

Nephrolepis cordifolia

Family: Davalliaceae

Type of weed:


A fern with upright or drooping fronds usually growing about 70 cm tall. It forms large clumps growing outwards from a central core. Tubers are attached to the dense rhizome network.

Fishbone fern is a native of South Eastern Queensland, but has become invasive outside its original range.

Don’t confuse with…

Fishbone fern can be confused with several other native ferns such as Fishbone Water Fern (Blechnum nudum) and Small Rasp Fern (Doodia caudata). In fishbone ferns the leaflets overlap and the mid stem on the frond is brown and rounded. Blechnum leaflets do not overlap and the mid stem is flat and whitish.


This fern reproduces by spores and vegetatively via underground stems (rhizomes), by fleshy underground tubers and in dumped garden waste. Dispersal by spores is by either wind or water.

Impact on bushland

The root system spreads over the soil surface and reduces the penetration of rainwater. It readily forms monocultures.


, . Mostly Mid to Lower Mountains.

Alternative planting

Native plants

  • Fishbone Water Fern (Blechnum nudum)
  • Small Rasp Fern (Doodia caudata)

Council provides a tool, on its Mountain Landscapes website, to help you choose native alternative plantings. Choose your village, soil, vegetation community and the purpose of your planting, and the tool will give you suggestions.

There are native nurseries in several Blue Mountains villages, including Glenbrook, Lawson and Katoomba. Please also ask at your favourite local nursery.


This plant will regenerate from the rhizomes and tubers, so complete and effective removal and disposal is essential. The most effective treatment is to dig out the plant and follow up this treatment on new regrowth. This fern does not respond well to herbicide.

For more info

For key points on these techniques: