Plant Guide > Ferns > Ceterach Fern

Ceterach Fern



Scolopendrium Ceterach
Graminitis Ceterach
Asplenium Ceterach
Ceterach officinarum

The Ceterach Fern is a downy evergreen pretty-looking fern, growing in tufts. The fronds are thick and fleshy, green, and glabrous on the upper side, but underneath thickly covered with brown scales, which completely conceal the sori. The green of the upper surface contrasts prettily with the rust-coloured brown edge formed round the margin by the scales underneath. The outline is long and narrow, very deeply divided into rounded lobes standing in an oblique position towards the mid-rib.

The short tough roots of this fern insinuate themselves into the crevices of old walls and ruins, in rocky places, and especially in limestone districts in England and Ireland. It is rare in Scotland, but is found in middle and southern Europe and in Africa.

On the old walls of churches and ruins this pretty fern seems to be quite at home, and is often found in company with the Wall Rue. It is to be seen on the walls of Jerusalem. Its medicinal properties were at one time thought to be of great value, but it has fallen into disuse with the progress of knowledge, and the discovery that all these supposed peculiarities, existing in various herbs and plants, depend on some astringent or other principle which is better supplied to the system in a more concentrated form from some other source.

The common name Spleenwort takes its origin in a curious story,-that in Cerito there is a river which divides two portions of land, the Ceterach growing abundantly on one side of the stream and riot on the other. On the side where this fern grows, the pigs are said to have no spleen, but on the other side no such deficiency is recorded. Hence the name Spleenwort, or Asplenon. To this day, Arabian and other eastern writers believe in the virtues of this fern in diseases of the spleen and liver.

To cultivate this fern with any success, its natural habit must be attended to as much as possible. It does best in the interstices of a wall, where the mortar has begun to crumble. In pot culture the soil should be prepared with great care; old crumbled mortar, peat earth, and limestone or oolite, should be well mixed together, and placed in shade. It is generally supposed that it is impossible to grow this fern in the atmosphere of London; yet Mr. Sowerby tells us that the best specimen he ever had flourished in the old wet mortar of a wall in Hatton Garden, where not a ray of sunlight ever reached it, and where the atmosphere was as full of London smoke as it is anywhere.