Herbs & Plants

Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant)

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Botanical Name :Blechnum spicant
Family : Blechnaceae
Genus : Blechnum
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Pteridopsida
Order: Athyriales
Species: B. spicant

Synonyms :        Lomaria spicant – (L.)Desv.
Common Names:   Deer fern or Hard fern

Habitat : It is native to Europe and western North America.  Grows most of Europe, including Britain, N. Africa, Japan, Western N. America.  Woods, heaths, moors, mountain grassland and on rocks, to 1200 metres.  Woodland Garden; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Deep Shade; Ground Cover;

An evergreen Fern growing to 0.3m by 0.3m at a slow rate.  Like some other Blechnum it has two types of leaves. The sterile leaves have flat, wavy-margined leaflets 5 to 8 millimeters wide, while the fertile leaves have much narrower leaflets, each with two thick rows of sori on the underside.
It is hardy to zone 5. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen from June to August.


Deer fern fronds are dimorphic.  Sterile leaves are evergreen and are  spreading or appressed to the ground.  They are usually 4 to 16 inches (10-40 cm) long.  Fertile leaves are fewer in number, deciduous, and  much longer than the sterile leaves.  Sporangia are confluent and  parallel to the midrib.  Deer fern has woody rhizomes

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

A calcifuge plant, it prefers a moist shady nook in the rock garden or a position in open woodland in a moist soil. Succeeds in quite dense tree shade if the soil is moist. Prefers a moist position and a northerly aspect but succeeds in sun and in clay soils. A polymorphic and very ornamental species, there are several named varieties. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Spores – best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep humid until they are well established. Overwinter for the first year in a greenhouse and plant outside in late spring or early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.

There are some named forms for this species, but these have been developed for their ornamental value and not for their other uses. Unless you particularly require the special characteristics of any of these cultivars, we would generally recommend that you grow the natural species for its useful properties. We have, therefore, not listed the cultivars in this database.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.

Root – cooked. An emergency food, used when all else fails. Young shoots (often called croziers) – cooked. The young tender stems can be peeled and the centre portion eaten. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails. It is also chewed to alleviate thirst on long journeys.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Astringent; Cancer; Skin; Stomachic.

The leaflets have been chewed in the treatment of internal cancer, lung disorders and stomach problems. The fronds are used externally as a medicine for skin sores. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea.

Other Uses
Ground cover.

A good ground cover plant. Relatively slow growing but succeeding in the dense shade of trees.

Known Hazards
:  Although it is  found that no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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