|Monday Melange: Maidenhair Fern|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 14 January 2013|
Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) with their delicate lacy foliage are native to North America, their distribution ranging across every state except North Dakota--including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The three most common maidenhair ferns are the northern (A. pedatum), common or southern (A. capillus-veneris), and Aleutian (A. aleuticum). They are members of the Fern (Pteridaceae) family.
Growing to a mature height of 12 to 30 inches, the delicate looking fronds appear to grow in a whirl-like pattern when viewed from above. When they emerge in spring, the fiddleheads or crosiers are pink. There are no flowers. Ferns reproduce by spores (found on the underside of the fronds) or by rhizomes (more typical). Maidenhair ferns are somewhat fast growing but slow to colonize unlike some of the other ferns such as hay-scented ferns or ostrich ferns. They will however, naturalize over time, making them an ideal groundcover plant in a woodland garden.
Maidenhair ferns are also a good choice for rock and foliage gardens. They prefer rich woodland soils, typically of limestone derivation and partial to full shade. Although not botanically related, the fan-shaped leaves of the maidenhair fern are similar in appearance to the leave of the ginkgo tree, which is also known as maidenhair tree perhaps because of its resemblance to the maidenhair fern.
The Aleutian maidenhair fern is listed as endangered in Maine, the northern maidenhair fern is listed as exploitably vulnerable in New York, and the common maidenhair fern (aka venus hair fern) is listed as endangered in North Carolina and threatened in Kansas (aka southern maidenhair).
Photo source: www.ct-botanical-society.org