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Adiantum pedatum (Northern maidenhair fern)
Cressler, Alan

Adiantum pedatum

Adiantum pedatum L.

Northern Maidenhair Fern, Maidenhair Fern

Pteridaceae (Maidenhair Fern Family)


USDA Symbol: adpe

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Northern maidenhair’s delicate, 8-30 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.


From the Image Gallery

11 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Fern
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Size Notes: Fronds up to about 30 inches long.
Leaf: Dark Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
Bloom Notes: Not a flowering plant. Reproduces by spores. Bloom time refers to sporulating period.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
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


Propagation Material: 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: yes
Maintenance: 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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 1231 - Guide To the Ferns of Grey and Bruce Counties, Ontario (1999) Owen Sound Field Naturalists
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Adiantum pedatum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Adiantum pedatum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Adiantum pedatum


Record Modified: 2022-10-31
Research By: TWC Staff

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