One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A genus of mostly evergreen terrestrial ferns of the family Dryopteridaceae, found in montane temperate and tropical regions and also cultivated as garden and house plants; (also polystichum) a fern of this genus (also called holly fern, shield fern).
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in The Times. From scientific Latin Polystichum, genus name from Hellenistic Greek πολύστιχος in many rows, so called on account of the arrangement of the sori in rows on the underside of the leaflets in many species.
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