Herbs & Plants

Athyrium filix-femina

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Botanical Name : Athyrium filix-femina
Family : Dryopteridaceae/Athyriaceae
Kingdom:  Plantae
Class: Polypodiopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Genus: Athyrium
Species: A. filix-femina

Synonyms: Asplenium felix-femina

Common Names: Lady Fern, Common ladyfern, Subarctic ladyfern, Asplenium ladyfern, Southern Lady Fern, Tatting Fer

Habitat :Athyrium filix-femina is native to Northern Temperate zone, including Britain, to the mountains of India, tropical S. America.It grows on Moist sheltered woods, hedgebanks and ravines, usually on acidic soils but also found in drier and more open habitats.

Lady Fern is a deciduous Fern growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a medium rate.It is similar in size and general appearance to the Male Fern. The rootstock is short and woody; the fronds 2 to 3 feet high, grow in circular tufts and are light, feathery and succulent, generally drooping, and while young and tender, not infrequently soon shrivelling up after being gathered. The leaf base – as already stated – has only two large bundles, and the stalks are less scaly than in the Male Fern. The pinnae are alternate, the lowest decreasing much in size at the bottom, and are divided into numerous long, narrow, deeply-divided and toothed pinnules, with abundant sori on their undersides, the indusium attached along one side, in shape rather like an elongated and rather straightened kidney. The Lady Fern is very variable in form, tint and flexibility: it is more graceful and somewhat more delicate than the Male Fern, and is early cut down by autumn frosts. It is easy of cultivation.
It is hardy to zone 2. The seeds ripen from Jul to August.

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Foundation, Ground cover, Massing, Woodland garden. An easily grown plant, it is calcifuge and prefers an acid soil with a pH from 4.5 to 6.5, but it tolerates alkaline soils if plenty of leaf mould is added. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist sheltered site with moderately high atmospheric humidity. A very ornamental  and polymorphic species, there are many named varieties selected for their ornamental value. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Naturalizing, Wetlands plant.

Spores – surface sow in a pot of sterile compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep moist, this is most easily done by putting the pot in a plastic bag. Pot up small clumps of the plants when they are large enough to handle and keep them moist until they are established. Plant out in late spring of the following year. Division in spring as plants come into growth. 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.

Edible Uses:      
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Root.

Young shoots, harvested before they have fully unfolded, can be eaten cooked. They must not be eaten raw – see the notes above on toxicity. Used in spring, they are a bitter emergency food. Rhizome – peeled and slow-baked. Reports that the root of this plant were eaten by native North American Indians are likely to be mistaken, it was probably Dryopteris expansa that was used.

Medicinal Uses:
A tea of the boiled stems has been used to relieve labour pains. The young unfurled fronds have been eaten to treat internal ailments such as cancer of the womb. The roots are anthelmintic and diuretic. A tea of the boiled roots has been used to treat general body pains, to stop breast pains caused by childbirth and to induce milk flow in caked breasts. The dried powdered root has been applied externally to heal sores. A liquid extract of the root is an effective anthelmintic, though it is less powerful than the male fern, Dryopteris felix-mas

Other Uses: A good ground cover plant, forming a slowly spreading clump. The cultivar ‘Minor’ has a denser habit and spreads more freely, making a better cover

Known Hazards:     The fresh shoots of Asplenium felix-femina 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. Although we have found no reports for this species, a number of ferns also contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable.

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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