This study describes the phenology of sporophytes of the fern Dryopteris filix-mas in relation to whole plant development. Sterile and fertile potted sporophytes were set out at an exposed site and the seasonal development of the fronds was measured from the commencement of unfolding, through the phase of increasing length, up to discoloration. The physiological activity of the fronds was determined by measuring photosynthetic gas exchange. The fronds of sterile sporophytes unfolded in April, about a week earlier than those of fertile plants, but the colour had already begun to turn in September and their life span was 1–2 months shorter. However, between mid-June and the end of August the sterile sporophytes put out several sets of new fronds: these overwintered without changing color and were still photosynthetically active in the following spring. All types of fronds were fully expanded 1–2 months from the beginning of unfolding and, with a natural supply of CO2, had similar maximum net photosynthetic rates of 8–9 μmol/m2 · s. The decline in photosynthetic performance began before symptoms of senescence were visible and was due to decreased efficiency of the mesophyll. It is concluded that the phenology of D. filix-mas changes with transition from the sterile to the fertile phase. Whereas fertile sporophytes are genuinely summergreen, the sterile sporophytes with their summer fronds remain green throughout the winter and should therefore be termed semi-evergreen. The formation of overwintering summer shoots clearly extends the period of photosynthetic productivity of sterile sporophytes.