Physiological and morphological properties of a deciduous, perennial fern (Onoclea sensibilis) and three wintergreen, perennial ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides, Polypodium virginianum, and Dryopteris intermedia) were examined using leaf fluorescence, chlorophyll a:b ratios, total chlorophyll content, water potential, and leaf edge to surface area ratios. Onoclea sensibilis differed significantly from the wintergreen ferns in morphology and physiology for almost every parameter measured. Interspecific differences were also observed within the wintergreen group. Dryopteris intermedia differed most within the wintergreen group and showed more similarity in physiology to O. sensibilis. Dryopteris intermedia was found occupying the same high-light, higher soil moisture habitat as O. sensibilis, which may indicate that inherent leaf morphology, physiological characteristics, and a wintergreen or perennial life cycle, play important roles in determining habitat preference.