Monthly Archives: November 2018

Western Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum aleuticum

Western Maidenhair Fern            Maidenhair Fern familyPteridaceae

 Adiantum aleuticum (Rupr.) Paris

(a-dee-AN-tum  al-oot-IH-kum)

Names:   Adiantum aleuticum is also known as A. pedatum var. aleuticum.  Adiantum comes from the Greek, adiantos (unwetted), referring to how the leaves shed water.  Aleuticum is derived from the Aleutian Islands.  Pedatum means foot-like (usually a bird’s), referring to its fan-shaped fronds.  Common names include: Five-finger Fern and Northern or Aleutian Maidenhair. The term Maidenhair may have been derived from the species A. capillus-veneris, (literally Venus’s hair), perhaps due to the dark, glossy hair-like leaf stalks.  Ginkgo biloba is called “Maidenhair Tree” because the leaves resemble the pinnules of Maidenhair ferns.

Relationships:  There are about 200 species in Adiantum worldwide, with about 9 native to the mainland United States and Canada, and about 11 more found in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Northern Maidenhair, Adiantum pedatum, from the Eastern United States, is very similar.  A key must be used to distinguish the two, — A. aleuticum sometimes has ascending or vertical pinnae, A. pedatum always are horizontal.

 

Distribution of Adiantum aleuticum from USDA Plants Database

Distribution:  Western Maidenhair can be found from the Aleutian Islands and southeast Alaska to Chihuahua in Mexico.  It is more common along the Pacific Coast, but can be found in some areas of the inland Rocky Mountain Region, and in some northeastern states, Quebec and Newfoundland (listed as endangered in Maine).

 

 

 

Growth: This species grows 4-30 inches (10-75 cm) tall.

Habitat: It grows in shady, moist, humid forests, or on rocks and cliffs, often within the spray zone of waterfalls.

 

 

Diagnostic Characters:  Western Maidenhair is a deciduous perennial with solitary (or few) fronds. It often grows in large colonies.  Dark brown to purplish-black petioles divide into 2 and then divide again, spreading parallel to the ground, radially to form 6-10 “fingers.”  Each leaflet or pinnule is fan-shaped but is usually skewed long on one side, creating an oblong shape.  Oblong sori are found on the edges of the upper lobes of the leaflets and are covered by inrolled leaf margins (false indusia).

In the Landscape:  Maidenhair Ferns are prized by gardeners for their delicate, airy fronds. Western Maidenhair is sure to evoke memories for avid hikers of enchanting waterfalls, where it grows on cliffs within reach of water spray.  But the gardener should make sure this charmer gets planted in a shady place with plenty of moisture.

The Cliff walls in Fern Canyon in Redwood National Park are mostly covered with Maidenhair Ferns.

Use by People:  Natives used the stems of Maidenhair Fern in basketry designs.  They also used a tea made from the leaves as a hair wash.  The Quinault burnt the leaves and rubbed ashes in their hair to make it long, shiny and black.  California natives used the stems for pierced earrings, either alone or with feathers; inserting them into the ear lobe to keep the hole from closing.  The leaves were also chewed for internal wounds, chest pain, or stomach trouble.  Capillaire cough syrup originally made from A. capillus-veneris has also been made from A. aleuticum.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Giant Chain Fern, Woodwardia fimbriata

Giant Chain Fern                                          Chain Fern family–Blechnaceae

Woodwardia fimbriata Sm.

(Wood-WAR-dee-uh  fim-bree-AH-tuh)

Names:    The genus is named after British botanist Thomas J. Woodward.  Chain Ferns get their common name from the chain-like rows of oblong sori on the undersides of the pinnae.  The species name, fimbriata means fringed, due to the margins having many tiny spines.  This species may also be called Western Chain Fern or Giant Chain Ferry.

Relationships:   There are about 14-20 species of Woodwardia in the northern hemisphere, with only 3 species in the U.S. and Canada.

Distribution of Giant Chain Fern from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Giant Chain Fern has been found in Texada and Vancouver Islands in British Columbia, and in the Puget Sound region of Washington where it is listed as sensitive.  It is more common from southern Oregon and California to northwest Mexico, mostly near the coast, but can also be found inland in Arizona and Nevada.

Growth:  Fronds typically grow 1-5 feet (0.4-1.5 m) but may grow up to 9 feet (3m).

Habitat: Giant Chain Fern grows in mild, wet coastal forests. It is sometimes found growing on seepy coastal cliffs or in desert areas near shady seeps. Wetland designation: FACW, it usually occurs in wetlands, but is occasionally found in non-wetlands.

Diagnostic Characters:  Evergreen fronds grow upright or slightly bent, from a short, robust rhizome.  They are broadly feather-shaped with once-pinnate, deeply cut segments; margins having pointed teeth tipped with tiny spines.

In the Landscape:   About Woodwardia fimbriata, Hitchcock writes: “This is surely our choicest large fern.”  Being the largest, it is certainly the most impressive of all our ferns, it performs best in a woodland garden especially next to streams, bogs, springs or ponds, but it can also grow in full sun with adequate summer moisture.  It can be very striking as a focal point or when planted against a wall in a shady location.  It readily produces “sporeling plants” in wet areas.  It also may be propagated in the spring by division of the rhizomes–but judicious collection of spores is preferable where this species is rare.

Use by People:   Natives in California used the leaves for fiber to make baskets, and to line the top and bottom of an earth oven for baking acorn bread and other foods.

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn