Adiantum capillus-veneris: Maidenhair fern

Family: Pteridaceae
Common name: Maidenhair fern, Southern maidenhair fern, True maidenhair, Southern maidenhair, Black maidenhair fern, Venus hair fern

These lovely green Maidenhair ferns grow on limestone walls in Kerala, the southernmost state of India in abundance during rainy season. They can grow to a height of 20-30 cms, forming large clumps of foliage from rhizomes.

The root rhizomes are thin and long, buried under moss that covers rocks and crevices. Maidenhair ferns are also seen near cliffs, rocks near waterbodies, limestone caves and other damp places.

They can spread quickly and grow very fast by their spreading roots that put out beautiful fan-like leaves. Leaf petioles and stem are thin, black, and shiny. Leaves are alternate, bright green, with serrated edges.

Maidenhair ferns are native to South and Central America, but they are now see in tropical countries all over the world. These plants can be grown as home plants in pots and near waterbodies, with adequate sunlight and moisture. They are low maintenance other than the high moisture requirement, and can grow well as garden plants or even indoor plants.

The name capillus- veneris literally means ‘hair of Venus’, a name given to this plant because of its beautiful leaves. These plants reproduces through spores that are produced on sporangia at the tips of the leaves.

The spores are released when they mature, and are dispersed by wind or water. These spores germinate and produce new plants when they fall on a surface that is conducive to the plant’s growth.

The fronds, rhizomes and roots have some medicinal uses in traditional herbal medicine, in the treatment of jaundice, rheumatism, bee stings, bronchitis, kidney stones, cold, cough, breathing difficulty, worms, snake bites, headache, and chest pain.

Maidenhair fern leaves are used as garnishes in sweet dishes. Dried leaves are infused in water to make a tea substitute. Parts of the plant are simmered in water to make a thick syrup that’s used to make a refreshing, cooling drink.

Propagation is through root rhizomes, which can easily be divided and replanted to produce new plants.