The male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) is probably the most common British fern and is found in damp woods, ditches, hedgerows and other shady places. It is certainly common in Dorset and is especially prominent in winter when there is little competition from other foliage.
The male-fern has big, bold, broad fronds, set alternately up the stem. The base of each stem is a little scaly but, in general, this is a very green fern. Although this is the male-fern please do not think there is a female-fern! Ferns reproduce asexually. There is a lady-fern but it is a totally different species
I was intrigued to read that the male-fern is steeped in country folklore. It was thought that the fern had the power to make anyone carrying it invisible! It seems, too, that the roots were dug up on St John's Eve, carved into the shape of a hand and then baked to make a charm to ward off witches and evil! I am not sure we still hold these superstitions, do we?