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Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Adiantum pedatum L.
Northern maidenhair, Maidenhair Fern
Pteridaceae (Maidenhair Fern Family)
USDA Symbol: adpe
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Fern Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf:
Dark Green Flower:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Not a flowering plant. Reproduces by spores.
, WV Canada: NB
, 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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse 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
Root Division Description:
Easily propagated by rhizome
division in early spring or late fall or from spores. Easiest to divide roots during fiddlehead stage. Seed Collection:
Spores mature in late summer and fall. Seed Treatment: Tap
spores into sterile potting mix, mist and keep covered with a clear plastic lid. Commercially Avail:
Keep evenly moist throughout the year but not soggy.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Possible ground covers under pine trees in Illinois
April 18, 2006
Have pine trees in front of house. No luck with the lawn around them....was told it's because of ground acidity. Any tips on how to get a lawn to grow there? If not, can you suggest some ground cover...
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-09
Research By: TWC Staff