Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Adiantum pedatum

Northern maidenhair fern, Maidenhair fern

Pteridaceae (Maidenhair Fern Family)

Adiantum pedatum (Northern maidenhair fern)
Cressler, Alan
Northern maidenhair’s delicate, 8-20 in. fronds, with dark, shiny stems, spread their pinnae horizontally in a nearly perfect circle. This graceful, fan-like pattern is unique among native ferns. The fronds arise from a creeping rootstock in clusters. Burgundy red fiddleheads appear in early spring. The roots are wiry and black, colonizing in favorable sites.

This fern is quite easy to grow if it is provided with the right conditions. Western plants are sometimes treated as a separate variety or subspecies, A. pedatum var. or ssp. aleuticum, but eastern and western plants look very much alike.

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3 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Fern
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf: Dark Green
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Not a flowering plant. Reproduces by spores.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , NS , ON , QC
Native Distribution: Que., Ont. & AK, s. to GA, OK, & c. CA. North America Zones 4 to 8.
Native Habitat: Moist, cool, rich woods & shaded areas, especially northern exposures, with neither little nor too much moisture. Rocky seeps and springs especially.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Rich, moist, well-drained soils, mostly acidic but can tolerate some lime.
Conditions Comments: Likes moist but not wet sites. Will not survive drying out. Keep evenly moist year-round.


Use Ornamental: Uniquely delicate, light green foliage, black stems, and red fiddleheads for areas with the right conditions
Use Wildlife: Provides shelter for toads and lizards.
Use Medicinal: Indigenous peoples made a tea from the leaves to treat respiratory conditions such as coughing and consumption.
Use Other: Shiny, dark stems used in basketry.
Interesting Foliage: yes

Last Update: 2016-03-04