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Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum capillus-veneris

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Plant Profile

Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Cliffs, rocky places, sea cliffs, seaside, walls, wetland.
Ferns do not have flowers.
The spores ripen from May to August in the UK.
The fan-shaped secondary leaflets of this fern make it easily identifiable.
Other Names:
Black Maidenhair Fern, Southern Maidenhair Fern, Venus Hair Fern.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Adiantum capillus-veneris, commonly known as Southern Maidenhair fern, Venus Hair fern or Black maidenhair, is a species of fern in the family Adiantaceae. It is native to the Americas, from southern Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina to the southern United States (Texas, Louisiana, and Florida), and also found in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

It is a hardy and versatile plant that is commonly grown as an ornamental in gardens, as well as being used in interior decorating and floristry. It is tolerant of a range of light conditions, but prefers a shaded location with high humidity and well-draining soil. It can grow to be about 30 cm high, with delicate, finely divided, black-stemmed fronds that are a beautiful bright green color.

The plant is also known for its medicinal properties and used in traditional medicine in many countries. it has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and also it has diuretic and astringent properties.

It can be propagated by spores, or by dividing the rhizomes. They also can be grown in terrariums or indoors under fluorescent lights.

It is not a plant that requires a lot of care, but it is important to keep it in a place with high humidity, not in a very sunny place, and to maintain a consistent level of moisture in the soil.


Maidenhair Fern, or Adiantum capillus-veneris, is a delicate and graceful plant that has been admired for centuries. With its thin, fan-like fronds and black, wiry stems, it is easy to see why this fern has been a favorite of gardeners and plant enthusiasts for so long. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics, care, and history of Maidenhair Fern.


Maidenhair Fern is a member of the Adiantum genus, which consists of over 200 species of ferns. This particular species, Adiantum capillus-veneris, is native to many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It is commonly known as Maidenhair Fern, but also goes by the names Venus Hair Fern, Southern Maidenhair Fern, and Black Maidenhair Fern.

The fronds of Maidenhair Fern are delicate and airy, with each frond consisting of numerous small leaflets attached to a thin, black stem. The fronds are typically about 12-20 inches long and 6-12 inches wide, and they arch gracefully outward from a central clump of rhizomes. Maidenhair Ferns are deciduous, meaning that their fronds will turn brown and fall off in the winter, but new growth will emerge in the spring.


Maidenhair Ferns are relatively easy to care for, but they do require some specific conditions to thrive. They prefer bright, indirect light, and will not do well in direct sunlight. They also require consistent moisture, so it is important to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. This can be achieved by watering the plant regularly, but not allowing it to sit in standing water.

Maidenhair Ferns prefer a humid environment, so it can be helpful to mist the plant regularly, or to place it on a pebble tray filled with water. It is also important to provide good air circulation around the plant to prevent fungal diseases.


Maidenhair Fern has a rich history in folklore and traditional medicine. In ancient Greece, the plant was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, and was believed to have healing properties for women's health issues. In traditional Chinese medicine, Maidenhair Fern was used to treat respiratory and digestive ailments.

The plant was also used by Native American tribes for a variety of purposes. The Navajo used it as a hair tonic, and the Cherokee used it to treat lung ailments. The Zuni used Maidenhair Fern in ceremonial offerings to the spirits, and the Hopi used it in a variety of medicinal remedies.

In modern times, Maidenhair Fern is still popular in gardens and as a houseplant. Its delicate beauty and easy care make it a favorite of many plant enthusiasts.

More about Maidenhair Ferns

Maidenhair Fern has also been used in various cultures for ornamental and decorative purposes. In Victorian England, Maidenhair Fern was a popular plant for indoor terrariums and ferneries, which were elaborate displays of ferns and other plants grown in glass cases. These displays were a way for people to show off their wealth and love of nature, and Maidenhair Fern was often featured as one of the most delicate and prized ferns.

In addition to its beauty and cultural significance, Maidenhair Fern is also an important plant for wildlife. The fronds of the fern provide a habitat and food source for a variety of insects and small animals. For example, the caterpillar of the California dogface butterfly feeds exclusively on Maidenhair Fern, and the fronds of the fern are a favorite nesting material for hummingbirds.

Maidenhair Fern is also a popular choice for terrariums and other indoor plant displays. Its delicate fronds and low maintenance requirements make it an ideal plant for adding a touch of green to any room. The plant can also be propagated by spores, which can be collected and planted in a suitable growing medium to produce new plants.

In terms of the scientific study of plants, Maidenhair Fern has been the subject of numerous research studies. Researchers have investigated the chemical compounds found in the plant, and have identified a number of potentially useful compounds, including flavonoids and tannins. These compounds have been shown to have a variety of biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.

Maidenhair Fern has also been used in a variety of ways in traditional and alternative medicine. The plant is believed to have a number of health benefits, including as a remedy for respiratory ailments, fever, and digestive problems. In traditional Chinese medicine, Maidenhair Fern is often used in combination with other herbs to treat a range of conditions, including coughs, asthma, and bronchitis.

Studies have shown that Maidenhair Fern contains a number of potentially beneficial compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. These compounds have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties, among other health benefits. While more research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of Maidenhair Fern, the plant is certainly a promising area of study for researchers in the field of natural medicine.

In terms of cultivation, Maidenhair Fern is a relatively easy plant to grow, and is a good choice for both indoor and outdoor gardens. The plant prefers a cool, moist environment with bright, indirect light. It is also important to keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged, and to provide good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases. Maidenhair Fern can be propagated by division or by spores, which can be collected from the underside of the fronds and planted in a suitable growing medium.

Maidenhair Fern is a member of the Adiantum genus, which includes more than 200 species of ferns found in temperate and tropical regions around the world. The genus name, Adiantum, comes from the Greek word adiantos, which means "unwetted" or "unwettable," a reference to the fern's ability to shed water from its fronds.

The specific epithet capillus-veneris, which means "Venus's hair" in Latin, refers to the plant's delicate and graceful fronds. In Greek mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and the association of the Maidenhair Fern with this goddess reflects the plant's reputation for beauty and grace.

Maidenhair Fern has a number of common names, including Venus Hair Fern, Southern Maidenhair Fern, and Black Maidenhair Fern, among others. The plant is a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers, and is often used in rock gardens, shade gardens, and water gardens.

In addition to its aesthetic and medicinal uses, Maidenhair Fern has also been used in a number of culinary applications. In Japan, the young fronds of the fern are used in salads and as a garnish for sushi and other dishes. The plant is also used in traditional Hawaiian cuisine, where it is known as kupukupu, and is used in a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, and stews.

Overall, Maidenhair Fern is a fascinating and versatile plant with a rich history and a range of uses. Whether you appreciate its beauty, its medicinal properties, or its culinary potential, there is no doubt that this fern is a remarkable and important plant with much to offer.


Maidenhair Fern filmed at Arnside, Cumbria on the seafront, 22nd October 2022.


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