Woodwardia radicans is the largest fern of laurel forests. Their fronds can reach 2.5 meters in length, beating the other giant, Culcita macrocarpa. Precisely these two large ferns, along with Selaginella balansae, are considered the oldest settled during the Late Cretaceous in the western Mediterranean region from ancient African and Asian ferns, perhaps over a period of warm subtropical climate. Its current natural distribution seems to support this hypothesis, since it lives in the Macaronesian Islands: Canary Islands, Madeira and Azores (except in the Cape Verde Islands), the Cantabrian-Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula: Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Basque country, in northern Algeria and also in the south of the Italian peninsula, Sicily, Corsica and Crete. Existing populations in the Serra de Sintra in Portugal are not natural.
Because of its great beauty has been cultivated in many countries around the world, existing feral populations in Asia and North America, for example, in Florida and California. Belongs to the family of Blechnaceae, like the Doodia caudata, the Blechnum brasiliense and Blechnum spicant. Its chromosome number is 2n = 68. The genus Woodwardia was devoted to English botanist Thomas J. Woodward (1745-1820), specialized in cryptogamic plants.
In the Canary Islands it is called Pijara, Penco labrado, Pirgua and Helecho de cumbre, in Portugal and Galicia is called Feto de botâo, in Italia Felce bulbifera and in English Chain fern or Rooting chainfern.
Its scientific name refers to the ability of this fern to reproduce vegetatively from small bulblets, buds and shoots, that as small rhizomes brown paleae covered grow in the apical end of the fronds. When these bulblets come into contact with the ground, take root and begin to grow as independent ferns. Thus botanists gave it the name "radicans" = that takes roots.