Open the Advanced Search

Parsley Fern

Cryptogramma crispa

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Polypodiaceae (Polypod Fern)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Cliffs, gardens, meadows, mountains, rocky places, walls, wetland, woodland.
Parsley Ferns do not produce conspicuous flowers as part of their reproductive cycle. Instead, these ferns reproduce via spores that are contained in small, inconspicuous structures called sori, typically located on the undersides of the finely divided fronds. The focus of admiration for Parsley Ferns lies in their elegant and finely lobed fronds, rather than in showy blooms. The reproductive strategy of spore release is a characteristic feature of ferns, and Parsley Ferns contribute to this ancient lineage with their subtle and discreet method of reproduction. Therefore, those observing Parsley Ferns in the British landscape are more likely to be captivated by the intricate beauty of their foliage rather than by any visible flowers. A fairly common fern found mainly in Wales, Cumbria and Scotland.
Parsley Ferns produce small, inconspicuous fruit structures known as sori, which are situated on the undersides of the finely divided fronds. These reproductive clusters appear as tiny, brownish spots, containing spore cases that release spores into the environment for reproduction. The fruiting pattern is discreet and subtle, in keeping with the overall delicate nature of the fern. The spore release mechanism is crucial for the dispersal and propagation of Parsley Ferns, contributing to their ability to colonize diverse habitats in the British landscape. While the fruiting aspect may not draw immediate attention, it plays a vital role in the fern's life cycle, ensuring its continued presence and adaptation in the UK's varied ecological niches.
The leaves of Parsley Ferns exhibit a distinctive and finely dissected appearance, resembling delicate fronds that gracefully fan out in a symmetrical manner. The leaflets, or pinnae, are intricately lobed, giving the foliage a lace-like quality. The lush green colour of the leaves adds vibrancy to their surroundings, creating a visual contrast against rocky habitats or moss-covered landscapes. The texture of the leaves is notably tender, reflecting their preference for cool and moist environments. Each leaflet is characterized by its serrated edges, contributing to the fern's overall elegant and ferny aesthetic. The unique structure of Parsley Fern leaves makes them an enchanting component of the British flora, especially in the scenic and often rugged locales where they choose to thrive.
Parsley Ferns do not possess a distinctive aroma as they are primarily appreciated for their visual and ecological qualities rather than for any notable fragrance. Unlike aromatic herbs or flowers, these ferns focus on their finely dissected fronds and delicate greenery, contributing to the scenic beauty of their habitats. The absence of a pronounced scent is typical for fern species, and Parsley Ferns align with this characteristic. Therefore, individuals exploring these ferns in the British landscape are more likely to engage with their visual appeal and the natural surroundings, rather than being greeted by any discernible fragrance emitted by the fern itself.
Other Names:
Curled Rock Brake, European Parsley Fern, Pale Rockbrake, Rock Brake, Rock Brake Fern.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Cryptogramma crispa, commonly known as rock brake or pale rockbrake, is a small fern species that belongs to the family Pteridaceae. This species is native to Europe, Asia and North America .

It is a small, delicate fern that typically grows to be about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) tall. The fronds are finely divided and lacy, and are typically a pale green color. The plant has underground rhizomes that allow it to spread over time to form large colonies. The leaves are typically a light green color, and are quite small and delicate.

It typically grows in rocky or gravelly soils, typically on rocky ledges, crevices and talus slopes, typically in acidic soil. It also can be found growing on calcareous soils and on rocky shores. It is drought-tolerant and grows well in full sun or partial shade.

This species is not commonly used as an ornamental plant, but it can be appreciated by botanists and fern enthusiasts. It's a great choice for rock gardens, natural rock outcrops, or walls, as well as for growing in containers for alpine gardens.

It is a hardy fern and does not require a lot of care. It can be propagated by spores or by division of the rhizomes. It is drought-tolerant and can grow in full sun, but it prefers light shade or filtered sunlight. It is not picky about soil type, but it does prefer well-draining soil that is consistently moist.


Parsley Fern, also known as Cryptogramma crispa, is a unique and beautiful fern that can be found in rocky mountainous areas in the Northern Hemisphere. The fern is particularly notable for its delicate, lacy fronds that resemble the leaves of parsley, giving it its common name. In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating world of the Parsley Fern and learn more about its characteristics, habitat, and uses.

Appearance and Characteristics

The Parsley Fern is a small fern, typically growing to a height of 15-30 cm (6-12 in) and width of 5-10 cm (2-4 in). The fronds, or leaves, are thin, delicate and deeply lobed, giving them a feathery, lacy appearance. The fronds are arranged in a rosette pattern, with the central fronds being the longest, and the fronds on the outer edges becoming progressively shorter.

One of the unique features of the Parsley Fern is its ability to change color throughout the year. In the spring and summer, the fern's fronds are a bright green color. However, as the weather gets colder, the fern's fronds turn a reddish-brown color, making it a striking addition to a winter landscape.


Parsley Ferns are primarily found in rocky mountainous regions in the Northern Hemisphere. They can be found at elevations ranging from sea level to over 3000 meters (10,000 ft) and are often found growing in crevices and cracks in rocky outcrops. The fern is also able to tolerate a wide range of soil types, from acidic to alkaline, making it a versatile plant that can thrive in a variety of environments.


The Parsley Fern has a long history of use in traditional medicine, particularly in European countries. It was believed to have a number of medicinal properties, including being a diuretic, astringent, and anti-inflammatory. The fern was also used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

In addition to its medicinal uses, the Parsley Fern is also a popular ornamental plant. Its delicate, lacy fronds make it a popular choice for rock gardens, alpine gardens, and other types of landscaping. It can also be grown in containers and used as a houseplant.

Ecology and Conservation

Parsley Fern is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, making it an important component of many mountain ecosystems. It is a slow-growing plant, and it can take several years for a new plant to reach maturity. As a result, the fern is vulnerable to over-harvesting, particularly in areas where it is used for medicinal purposes. It is also threatened by habitat loss, particularly in areas where development and human activities are encroaching on its natural habitat.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the conservation of Parsley Fern, particularly in Europe, where it is considered a threatened species. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, the fern is protected by law, and it is illegal to pick or disturb the plant.

Cultivation and Propagation

Parsley Fern can be cultivated and propagated in a variety of ways. It can be grown from spores, which are produced in small brown capsules on the undersides of the fronds. Spores can be collected and sown in a potting mix or other suitable growing medium. The fern can also be propagated through division, by separating the plant into smaller sections and replanting them.

Parsley Fern prefers a moist, well-draining soil and can benefit from regular watering, particularly during dry periods. It is a low-maintenance plant that can be grown in a variety of conditions, from full sun to partial shade.

In summary, Parsley Fern is a unique and versatile plant with many uses and benefits. Whether you're looking for a medicinal plant, a striking addition to your garden, or a fascinating addition to your collection of houseplants, the Parsley Fern is definitely worth considering. With proper care and attention, this hardy plant can thrive and bring beauty and interest to any landscape.

Some Interesting Facts about Parsley Ferns

Here are a few more interesting facts about Parsley Fern:

  • Parsley Fern has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant. It was particularly popular in traditional European medicine, where it was used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory conditions, digestive problems, and urinary tract infections.

  • In addition to its medicinal uses, Parsley Fern is also an important food source for wildlife. The plant's delicate fronds provide a valuable source of food for a variety of insects, including moths, butterflies, and beetles. The plant is also eaten by a number of mammal species, including mountain goats and sheep.

  • In some cultures, Parsley Fern is considered a symbol of resilience and strength. The plant's ability to thrive in harsh mountain environments has made it a symbol of endurance and perseverance.

  • The scientific name for Parsley Fern, Cryptogramma crispa, comes from the Greek words "krypto" (meaning hidden), "gramma" (meaning letter), and "krispos" (meaning curled). The name refers to the fern's hidden spores, which are curled up in small capsules on the undersides of the fronds.

  • Parsley Fern has been used in landscape design for many years. Its delicate, lacy fronds and low-growing habit make it a popular choice for rock gardens, alpine gardens, and other types of landscaping.

  • Parsley Fern is an interesting plant to study from a botanical perspective. Its unusual fronds, which are deeply lobed and resemble the leaves of parsley, make it a unique and fascinating addition to any collection of ferns or plants.


Parsley Ferns filmed around Kentmere in the Lake District on the 1st June 2023.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map