Asplenium trichomanes

Maidenhair Spleenwort

Maidenhair Spleenwort, Photo courtesy Wisconsin State Herbarium and Emmet J. Judziewicz
Maidenhair Spleenwort
Photo courtesy Wisconsin State Herbarium
and Emmet J. Judziewicz

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Asplenium, from the Latin splen, "spleen"
  • trichomanes, the Greek name (tricomanes) for this fern, from qric (thrix), "hair of the head"
  • Common Name, an anglicized version of the Greek genus & species names
  • Other common names include Doradille Chevelue (Qué), Svartbräken, Bergspring, Stenbräken, Vanlig Svartbräken (Swe), Svartburkne (Nor), Rundfinnet Radeløv (Dan), Tummaraunioinen (Fin), Brauner Streifenfarn (Ger), Aranyos Fodorka (Hun)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Polypodiophyta, the True Ferns
      • Class Filicopsida
        • Order Polypodiales
          • Family Aspleniaceae, the Spleenworts
            • Genus Asplenium, the Spleenworts
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 17364
  • Also known as Asplenium melanocaulon
  • In Europe and North America, occurs as diploid and tetraploid cytotypes, generally treated as subspecies.
    • Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes, the diploid, is found on noncalcareous rocks. This is the subspecies of our area.
    • Asplenium trichomanes ssp. quadrivalens, the tetraploid, grows on calcareous substrates in northeastern North America.
    • Triploid hybrids are known between the diploids and tetraploids.


  • Fronds evergreen, ¾" wide x 3"-6" long, growing in neat rosettes. Fertile and sterile fronds alike.
    • Petiole reddish brown or blackish brown throughout, lustrous, ½"-1½" long, 1/6-1/4 length of blade.
    • Blade linear, once-cut, ¼"-¾"×1¼"-8½", thin, smooth or sparsely haired; base gradually tapered; tip narrowly acute.
    • Rachis (axis) reddish brown throughout, lustrous, and smooth or nearly so.
    • Pinnae in 15-35 pairs, oblong to oval; edges shallowly toothed to more or less smooth; tip obtuse.
    • Pinnules absent
    • Sori 2-4 pairs per pinna
  • Rootstalk short-creeping, often branched; scales black throughout or with brown borders, lanceolate.
    • Roots not proliferous.


  • Unlike anything else in the North Country.
  • Distinguished from other small, rock-loving ferns by its once-cut fronds (all other small rock ferns, excepting the Common Polypody, Polypodium virginianum, have more greatly dissected fronds.) Distinguished from the Polypody by its prominent, dark frond stem and the narrow fronds of nearly constant width.
  • Field Marks
    • once-cut fronds
    • prominent, dark frond stem
    • fondness for rocky places
    • small size


  • Alaskan panhandle south to Oregon; the Black Hills south to Arizona, New Mexico, and the Big Bend; North Ontario to Newfoundland, south to northeastern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and the southern Appalachians.
  • Also Chihuahua, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia


  • Acidic rocks such as sandstone, basalt, and granite; very rarely on calcareous rocks in our area.






  • By spore and vegetatively by rhizome


  • By rhizome division


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Good for rock gardens, rock walls
  • Available by mail order from specialty suppliers
  • Likes well-drained, moist, limy loam, some sun.



  • While generally viewed in North America as a fern of wild, undeveloped places, this circumboreal species is commonly found growing out of the old stone walls of ruined castles and abbeys across Britain and Northern Europe.
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Last Updated on 26 February, 2004