Epithet means "Venus hair."
Deciduous, 1 ft. (30 cm). Zones 7 (with protection) to 10.
description: The rhizome is short-creeping. Plum-black stipes are grooved and usually one-third of the frond length. The triangular blade is bipinnate with dark-stalked, wedge-shaped, drooping pinnules. A touch of the dark stem color radiates into the base of the foliage. Forked veins extend to the minute marginal teeth. Sori are elongate bars and marginal on the inrolled segments of the false indusia. This species reproduces with ease (and at random) from spores and willingly from divisions.
range and habitat: One of the world's most widely distributed maidenhairs, Adiantum capillus-veneris is native to tropical and warm-temperate zones as well as sites where cool to cold winters are balanced by hot summers. Sites reported in the seriously cold zones of South Dakota and British Columbia are associated with hot springs. Plants are partial to limestone where they especially delight in moist seeps. This species is often seen on walls, such as in Zion National Park, as pendulous curtains of green lace.
culture and comments: Descriptions note that nearly every frond is fertile and my nursery would testify to that. For me this is a "weed" (or at least a "volunteer") in the comfort of my humid greenhouse. By contrast, it is rather short-lived in my naturally acidic garden where accommodations need to
be made to create a basic soil. A limestone crevice is an excellent choice. This fern will do well in shady bright to dim light. I have even seen it growing in caves. It is also widely grown as a houseplant.
Adiantum capillus-veneris has a long and illustrious history of medicinal and magical applications and properties in fables and herbals. Apuleius who expanded on the herbal and medicinal observations and contributions of Dioscorides gave the plant its name in the fourth or fifth century. See the introduction for various interesting applications that were employed through the ages.
'Fimbriatum' (fringed) is a beautiful, vertical cultivar to 18 in. (45 cm). Lustrous ebony stipes are over one-half of the frond length. The broad pinnules are deeply fringed and shaggy. The plant dies down at the first frost, but adapts to neutral soils and is consequently easier to cultivate than the type, indoors or out. It comes true from spores.
'Imbricatum' (overlapping), known in the trade as 'Green Petticoats', is a magnificent cultivar with layers of cascading bright green shingles of foliage. Spores breed true for this strictly indoor plant, which is at its best as a coveted décor in humid greenhouses. It is a challenging beauty. For best results, water the pot and not the fronds.
Adiantum capillus-veneris in winter at Zion National Park.
'Scintilla' (sparkling) is infrequently cultivated as spores are rarely available. It is an interesting and attractive novelty, similar to, but more demanding than 'Fimbriatum'. The deeply cut pinnules look like mini shredded kites that lost the battle with the wind. The plant needs consistently high humidity but does not tolerate water on the foliage.
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