Asplenium platyneuron Ebony spleenwort

Epithet means "broad-nerved, wide-veined."

Evergreen, 8 to 18 in. (20 to 45 cm). Zones 4 to 8. Dimorphic.

description: The rhizome is erect. Short stipes are a polished, dark mahogany-brown and usually about one-fifth or less of the frond length. Lanceolate blades are once-pinnate with up to 40 pairs of auriculate pinnae without stalks. it is of diagnostic significance that the pinnae are alternate and the auricles overlap the rachis. The sterile fronds are lax and short; the fertile fronds, upright and taller. Sori and indusia are linear in a herringbone pattern. This species is very close in appearance to Asplenium resiliens but differs in having dark reddish-brown stipes rather than black and having alternate pinnae that usually overlap the rachis. it hybridizes with a

Asplenium platyneuron in the rock garden at the Mount Cuba Center.
Detail of alternate pinnae overlapping the rachis on Asplenium platyneuron.
Asplenium resiliens in the crags on a rocky slope in Missouri.

number of aspleniums, the best known being with A. mon-tanum to form A. bradleyi. It also hybridizes with Camptosorus rhizophyllus to form Asplenium ebenoides.

range and habitat: This is primarily a midwestern and eastern U.S. native with a disjunct population in Arizona and another in South Africa. It grows in basic and slightly acid soils, on buildings, in woodlands, and in scrub. It prefers light shade.

culture and comments: I think the easiest way to acquire this fern is to buy property where it is already established. Pampering is more of a hindrance than help, and even in the wild, populations are unstable, appearing and disappearing seemingly at whim. Give it good drainage and good wishes. Ironically, this is one Asplenium that will persevere in spite of slug attacks. The long-ago former name for this plant was A. ebeneum. No fan of name changes, D. C. Eaton commented in 1878, "Although the Linnaean name for the present fern is unquestionably the oldest, it is scarcely probable that those authors who are disposed to insist upon an inflexible law of priority will attempt to replace the name which has been accepted by nearly all botanists for nearly a century by one so inappropriate as A. platyneuron." He was 10 years too early. Asplenium platyneuron became official in 1888.

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