Asplenium montanum Mountain spleenwort

Epithet means "of the mountains." Evergreen, 3 to 6 in. (7.5 to 15 cm).Zones 4 to 8.

description: The rhizome is erect. Stipes are one-half of the frond length, briefly dark at the base, and grade into green. Warm green, narrowly triangular blades are bipinnate in the lower pair or two of pinnae, and once-pinnate as the pairs of pinnae approach the frond's apex. Sori are linear with linear indusia.

range and habitat: The mountain spleenwort grows on sandstone and acidic rocks down the backbone of the eastern United States from Connecticut to Alabama with the greatest concentration in the Appalachian regions. Look for it also in crevices on the walls approaching Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in western Pennsylvania. Flora of North America (1993) calls this fern "an ecological specialist"because it tends to be a loner in its preferred habitats.

culture and comments: While many rock garden spleenworts prefer limestone, here is a miniature that acclimates, by choice, to acid substrates. Even so, it is not eager to be introduced to garden culture. Give it a niche in a shaded, crumbly rock wall.

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