Monday, September 13, 2010

The Northern Maidenhair Fern (A. pedatum)

The Maidenhair fern is beautiful and very soft. Slow growing reaching a maximum height of a little under two feet tall. Its polished black stalk is a give away and is very delicate. In the wild it is often found in deciduous woodlands on slopes where it can get it's preferred well-drained but moist soil and semi-shade from the sun. It's a very frost-resistant plant withstanding temperatures down to 5° Fahrenheit (-15° C).

Close-up of stalk
The aerial (above ground) parts of the plant have long been used to treat coughing, congestion, sore throat, and inflamed or injured skin. A syrup or tea can be made, or the plant consumed or applied directly. The North American Natives would chew the fronds and then apply them to wounds to stop bleeding. It is edible in small quantities, the younger the specimen the better; it is recommended to cook or dry any fern before consumption as this will destroy any thiaminase it may contain. Thiaminase is an enzyme that can deprive the body of vitamin B complex, and in small quantities has negligible effect, however large quantities are to be avoided. The soft fronds have been used to line fruit baskets to protect the fruit from the basket. I've also read reports of the plant having been used to make a hair wash and conditioner.

I nor my host can be held responsible for your actions, please get plants professionally identified before using them. I have been unable to find any reports of toxicity for this specific species, however a number of ferns are also known to contain carcinogens that can cause stomach cancers, so obviously caution should be taken and again only consumed when properly identified, prepared and in small quantities.


  1. my grandma had a plant like that

  2. That is quite possible as it is a relatively common houseplant. I've heard, but have never seen, that the domesticated types can have longer, thinner fronds.

  3. interesting info...thanks for sharing