This deciduous fern is found in a range of damp habitats, including wet heaths, fens, mires, raised bogs, carr and wet woodland. It prefers rich alluvial soils with a high water table. More rarely it extends onto open moorland, possibly as a relic of former woodland. Generally lowland, but reaching 730 m in Atholl (E. Perth).
D. carthusiana has declined in the last hundred years, wetland drainage, forest removal and agricultural improvement having taken their toll. However, it is much better recorded now than in the 1962 Atlas.
Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element; also in N. America.