Plant Guide > Ferns > Common Wall Spleenwort Fern

Common Wall Spleenwort Fern



The Common Wall Spleenwort Fern is a pretty little tufted fern, generally from two to six inches high. It has a slender hair-like black stalk, and regularly disposed-of ovate pinnae forming the fronds. They are of a deep green colour, slightly crenated at the margin. The pinnae are attached to the rachis by a very short stalk, forming the attenuation of a wedge-shaped base. When old, the pinnae, fall off, leaving the black glossy hair-like stalks naked, mingling with the green fronds.

Both this pretty little fern and its variety Asplenium viride are abundant on shaded rocks, in old walls and buildings throughout Great Britain, Europe, Central and Russian Asia (except the extreme north), in North and South America, and in Australia. In the west of England, and especially in Wales, it is a common fern. In the valley of the Wye it grows in profusion, covering whole masses of ground, and presenting a lovely appearance.

In Germany there is a legend attached to a well near which this fern grows most luxuriantly. A lady keeping tryst with her lover, he was suddenly, by some evil spell, changed into a wolf. In her terror, she fled before him, and in her haste fell over a precipice, her beautiful hair becoming entangled in the bushes. Immediately, on the spot, a clear spring welled up, and her hair took root and grew into the lovely fern now called "Maiden Hair Spleenwort." The well is called Wolf's Spring; and after hearing the legend the traveller is expected to take with him as a relic a bunch of "Maiden Hair."

A tea or syrup made of the fronds has long been recommended as a remedy in pulmonary affections.

The Common Spleenwort is easily cultivated, and is one of the prettiest of our smaller ferns. It is well adapted for rock-work or for insertion in the crevices of walls or buildings, where the mortar and brickwork ensures perfect drainage, while it absorbs moisture. In Ward's cases, where its size is suitable, it should have the upper and dry portions of rock-work. From the experiments of Mr. Wollaston it was found that a soil of sandy loam is best adapted for its success, as it requires less moisture than most other ferns; in fact, the crown or centre of growth should never be wetted.

A variety of this fern, believed by many botanists to be a distinct species, Asplenium Trichomanes viride (the Green Spleenwort), is known by its stem being green instead of black or dark-brown at the base only.