Asplenium trichomanes

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Consider this dainty fern for a small, but dramatic, addition to woodland plant sales.

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January 3, 2018
Mark Leichty
Photos by Richie Steffen, Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden

I marvel at the diversity and beautiful forms found among ferns. Having lived in the temperate rainforests of the coastal Pacific Northwest my whole life, I appreciate the lavish carpet of evergreen ferns that cover the forest floor. Tucked into rocky crevices or found growing along woodland trails is a dainty gem, Asplenium trichomanes, or maidenhair spleenwort.

There are native populations of this lovely fern growing on every continent except Antarctica, and it can be found growing in 45 U.S. states, giving it the distinction of being a “native” almost anywhere in the United States and Canada.

The alluring evergreen fronds of A. trichomanes provide for year-round interest in the woodland garden. Its compact habit makes it ideal to nestle into rock or alpine gardens. It will do well with a generous amount of sun, though I’d keep it out of direct mid-day sun in all but temperate coastal climates. It can even be grown vertically in outdoor living walls. The jet-black stipes (stems) lined with button-shaped pinnae make this choice fern irresistible to gardeners.

I talked to Sue Olsen, founder of the Hardy Fern Foundation and author of “Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns,” about A. trichomanes, who said, “One of my very favorite ferns. Outstanding low evergreen for the garden's foreground or your rock crevice. Tolerates most exposures and is an eye-catching prize for all to admire and enjoy.”

Richie Steffen, executive director of the Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden and co-author of A Plant Lovers Guide to Ferns, added, “Asplenium trichomanes is one of the best and easiest of the dwarf ferns to grow. It has a ‘cute’ factor that’s charming in any container.”

Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. mark@littleprinceoforegon.com