Plant Guide > Ferns > Lady Fern

Lady Fern



Athyrium Filix Foemina
Aspidium Filix Famina
Polypodium Flux Foemina

The Lady Fern is the most lovely of our British ferns, and by its delicate cutting, its bright green colour, and exquisite grace of form, has gained special admiration from those who find it in its native haunts. Its habit is tufted; it has the short woody root-stalk of the Male Fern, but is more divided; the stalk is less scaly, and the sori different.

The fronds, which appear in May, are lanceolate, twice pinnate; the pinnules deeply cut or pinnatifid; the lobes sharply toothed. At first the vernation of the fronds is circinate, but as they advance, the apex becomes free and hangs down, as in Nephrodium Filix Mas, assuming the appearance of a shepherd's crook. The fronds are exceedingly fragile, and wither almost immediately on being gathered. The sori are very abundant, covering the back of the pinnule; they are shortly oblong, diverging from the centre of the segments, with the indusium attached along one side, as in other spleemworts, but showing an approach, by the kidney shape of some of them, to the Buckler Fern.

The varieties of this fern are very numerous, many only dependent on situation and circumstances, but some decidedly persistent. Professor Lindley enumerates seven permanent monstrous forms.

The fructification of the Lady Fern is so abundant that Sir J. E. Smith has remarked: "If a single plant were uninterrupted in its possible increase for twenty year, it would cover an extent equal to the surface of the whole globe."

The Lady Fern is distributed more or less all over the British Isles, its favourite resort being moist warm woods; but it does not shrink from the exposure of open moors and naked hill-sides. In Ireland it takes the position of our common brake, and, like that, is employed as a packing material for fish and fruit. It is found in Scotland, and is alluded to by Sir Walter Scott in `Waverley,' who expresses its love for moist, shady woodlands thus:

"Where the copse-wood is the greenest,
Where the fountain glistens sheenest,
Where the morning dew lies longest,
There the Lady Fern grows strongest."

It occurs in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, though the specimens sent from America differ in many respects from the true Lady Fern.

No collection, either in the open air or in a case, is complete without the beautiful Lady Fern. It bears civilisation admirably. In rock-work it should occupy a low, boggy situation, as it loves shade and moisture, planted among turfy soil, kept well moistened and drained. Placed at the edge of a cavern or pool of water, no object can be more lovely, and nothing will grow so freely. A modern writer says:

"Supreme in her beauty, beside the full urn,
In the shade of the rock stands the tail Lady Fein."

Among the varieties of the Lady Fern we would mention as most persistent:

ASPLENIUM FILIX FOEMINA LATIFOLIUM, known by its more hardy appearance-broader pinnules, which are set more closely together, lobed and deeply cut at the edges, almost to the mid-rib.

ASPLENIUM FILIX FOEMINA CONVEXUM is also very distinct; it has more slender fronds than any form of the Lady Fern, and its pinnae and pinnules are smaller.

ASPLENIUM FILIX FOEMINA MOLLE has a short stalk, with broad and short scales. The frond rarely exceeds a foot in height, and is erect and of a bright green colour. Its outline is egg-shaped and lanceolate.