Herbs & Plants

Asplenium ceterach

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Botanical NameAsplenium ceterach
Family: Aspleniaceae
Genus: Asplenium
Species: A. ceterach
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Pteridopsida
Order: Blechnales

Synonyms : Ceterach officinarum,Scaly Fern. Finger Fern. Miltwaste. Ceterach (Arabian).Ceterach officinarum DC.

Common Names :Rustyback, Scale Fern

Habitat : This species is found in Western and Central Europe, including the Mediterranean region. It is associated with fissures in carbonate rocks and also grows on the mortar of stone and brick walls.


Asplenium ceterach is a FERN growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in).  The seeds ripen from Apr to October.
Rhizome: erect, branching, scales clathrate.

Frond: 15 cm high by 2 cm wide, evergreen, monomorphic, blade/stipe ratio: 8:1.

Stipe: green, from base all up the rachis, scaly, vascular bundles: 2 C-shaped, back to back, uniting to 1 upwards to an X-shape.

Blade: pinnatifid, lanceolate, leathery, deep green upper surface, scales dense, light brown, entirely covering the lower surface.

Pinnae: 6 to 12 pair, alternate; margins entire or sometimes irregularly crenate, slightly bending upwards, revealing the scales; veins netted, veins closing near the margins, not visible without removing the scales.

Sori: linear, along veins, indusium: vestigial, replaced by scales, sporangia: dark brown, maturity: late summer, then overwintering to maturity early .
Dimensionality: a rosette, fairly flat on the ground.

A calcicole plant, it requires a freely draining but moist alkaline soil. It tolerates full sun but prefers a position with at least part-day shade and also grows in deep shade. Plants can be grown in old brick walls. A very ornamental plant. 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. Germinates in spring. Spring sown spores germinate in 1 – 3 months at 15°c. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse. Keep them humid until they are well established. When they are at least 15cm tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer

Medicinal Uses:
This Fern used also to be called ‘Miltwaste,’ because it was said to cure disorders of the milt or spleen, for which it was much recommended by the Ancients. Probably this virtue has been attributed to the plant because the lobular milt-like shape of its leaf resembles the form of the spleen. The name of the genus, Asplenium, is derived from the Greek word for the spleen, for which the various species originally assigned to the genus were thought to have curative powers. This particular species was used to cure an enlarged spleen. It was also used as a pectoral and as an aperient in obstructions of the viscera, and an infusion of the leaves was prescribed for gravel. Meyrick considered that a decoction of the whole plant was efficacious, if persevered in, for removing all obstructions of the liver and spleen. Pliny considered that it caused barrenness.

The whole plant is antitussive and diuretic. It is widely used in the Mediterranean to treat gravel in the urine and is also used with other mucilaginous plants to treat bronchial complaints. The taste is very bitter and needs to be sweetened with other herbs such as liquorice. The plant is harvested from late spring to summer and can be dried for later use. Some caution should be employed in its use since it has not been fully tested.

Known Hazards:  Although  no reports of toxicity is comonly found 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

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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