Open the Advanced Search

Irish Spleenwort

Asplenium onopteris

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

Aspleniaceae (Spleenwort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Gardens, rocky places, seaside, walls, woodland.
Ferns are not flower-bearing plants. Instead the possess spores in order to reproduce.
The spores ripen between July and November.
Similar in appearance to Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum) but with narrower leaves (fronds) which are a yellowish-green colour. The stalks are also longer. Reddish brown stalks.
Other Names:
Acute-leaved Spleenwort, Mediterranean Spleenwort, Western Black Spleenwort.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Asplenium onopteris, also known as the Mediterranean spleenwort, is a fern species that is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia. It is a small, evergreen fern that forms rosettes of triangular, dark green fronds. The fronds are typically between 4 and 8 inches long and have a glossy, leathery texture. It is found growing in rocky crevices, on walls, and in crevices of rocky outcrops. It is a hardy and easy-to-grow fern that is suitable for rock gardens, coastal gardens and indoor cultivation as well. This fern is also drought tolerant and can survive with low maintenance.


Irish Spleenwort, also known as Asplenium onopteris, is a fern native to Europe, including Ireland, Scotland, and England. It is a small fern that grows in crevices and rocky areas, and can often be found in the wild in old walls, hedgerows, and on limestone cliffs. In this blog post, we'll explore the characteristics and benefits of Irish Spleenwort.

Physical Characteristics

Irish Spleenwort is a small fern that typically grows to be around 10-30 cm in height. It has a distinctive frond structure, with narrow, lance-shaped leaflets that grow in an alternating pattern along the main stem. The leaflets are a deep green color and have a smooth surface. The fronds grow from a central point, with the new growth appearing in the spring and summer months.

Benefits and Uses

Irish Spleenwort has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. It was believed to have a cleansing effect on the spleen, which is how it got its name. The plant was also used to treat skin conditions, digestive problems, and respiratory issues.

In modern times, Irish Spleenwort is still used in herbal medicine for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The plant contains a range of flavonoids and phenolic compounds, which are believed to be responsible for its medicinal properties. Irish Spleenwort has been used to treat conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and rheumatism, among others.

Irish Spleenwort is also used in cosmetic products, as it is believed to have skin-soothing and anti-aging properties. The plant extract is used in lotions, creams, and other skincare products to help reduce inflammation and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

Conservation Status

Irish Spleenwort is listed as a species of conservation concern in the UK and Ireland, due to its limited distribution and habitat requirements. The plant prefers to grow in rocky habitats, which are under threat from human activities such as quarrying and urbanization. In addition, the plant is also at risk from changes in land management practices, such as overgrazing and the removal of hedgerows.


Irish Spleenwort is a small but mighty plant with a long history of use in traditional medicine. Its unique frond structure and distinctive green color make it easy to identify in the wild. While the plant is under threat from human activities and changes in land management practices, efforts are being made to protect it and conserve its habitat. As research into the plant's medicinal properties continues, Irish Spleenwort may become an even more valuable resource for natural medicine and skincare products.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map