The leaves of Dryopteris cristata are pinnate-pinnatifid,
35-70 cm long, 1/4 or less as wide as long and nearly uniform
in width except where narrowed to the tip. Sterile leaves tend
to remain green over winter, but fertile leaves die at the end
of the growing season. The pinnae of fertile fronds are often
twisted conspicuously, sometimes nearly perpendicular to what
would be considered the normal plane of the blade. Basal pinnae
are broadly triangular.
Dryopteris cristata ranges throughout the northeastern
U.S., south to North Carolina, west to northern Illinois and Minnesota,
and then across southern Canada to eastern British Colombia. It
is found throughout Wisconsin, where it occupies decidedly wet
sites in both sunny and somewhat shaded habitats.