Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum), is widespread throughout the Pacific Northwest. It is an evergreen understory plant that thrives at the base of conifers and is often found mingling with Vine maple, Hazelnut, and Big Leaf maple. This is a really tough plant, that can survive in drought conditions once established, yet can handle the wet weather too. I’ve used the stems as upright framework pieces to weave over in some baskets. They were not flexible, but they added an interesting look and texture. I pulled off the leaves, and dried the stems, and then used them in projects where they didn’t need to bend. These leaves have been used in many ways by the First Peoples of the area, especially in food preparation and storage. They were also used as flooring and bedding material. In spring the rhizomes were dug, steamed, pealed and eaten. In his movie “Clam Basket”, Suquamish elder Ed Carriere demonstrates how wet sword ferns are piled over a hot fire to hold in the steam while cooking clams. I’ll tell you later why it was referred to as the ‘pala pala’ plant by many in the local Salish culture.