Herbs & Plants

Adiantum pedatum

Botanical Name: Adiantum pedatum
Family: Pteridaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Polypodiales
Genus: Adiantum
Species: A. pedatum

*Adiantum pedatum var. aleuticum Rupr.
*Adiantum pedatum f. billingsae Kittr.
*Adiantum pedatum var. kamtschaticum Rupr.
*Adiantum pedatum f. laciniatum Weath.
*Adiantum pedatum subsp. pedatum
*Adiantum pedatum var. pedatum
*Adiantum pedatum f. pedatum

Common Names: Northern maidenhair fern or Five-fingered fern

Habitat:Adiantum pedatum is native to moist forests in eastern North America (N. America – Alaska to Quebec and Nova Scotia, south to California and Georgia. E. Asia). It grows in a variety of habitats, but generally favors soils that are both humus-rich, moist, and well-drained. It grows both in soils and on rock faces and ledges when adequate moisture is present.

Adiantum pedatum is a deciduous, clump-forming perennial fern consists of a much-branched bipinnate leaf and its petiole. This compound leaf is 6-24″ across and nearly as long; it is held more or less horizontal to the ground. In outline, this leaf is reniform (kidney-shaped) or fan-shaped in outline; it has pinnae (leafy stalks) radiating in all directions. The petiole is 6-18″ tall; it is black or dark brown, wiry, glabrous, and erect. The petiole divides into two major branches that widely diverge from each other. Along one side of each branch, there are several straight pinnae; they are odd-pinnate. These pinnae are up to 12″ long and 2″ across; they have 4-24 pairs of leaflets and single terminal leaflets. The central stalks of the pinnae are black or dark brown, wiry, and glabrous. The non-terminal leaflets are arranged alternately to nearly opposite along each stalk on short petiolules; they are medium green and glabrous. The non-terminal leaflets are up to 1″ long and ½” across; they are plume-shaped. One side of each non-terminal leaflet is smooth and slightly curved, while the other side is shallowly cleft and crenate-dentate.

The terminal leaflets are up to ¾” long and ¾” across; they are fan-shaped. The lateral sides of each terminal leaflet are smooth and straight, while the outer side is shallowly cleft and crenate-dentate. The larger lobes of both non-terminal and terminal leaflet have rounded or truncate tips. The sporangia (spore-bearing structures) are located near the lobed tips of the leaflets on their undersides. Each of these leaflet tips folds downward and partially covers its sporangia; these small sporangia are arranged together in a narrow band. The spores are produced and released during the summer or fall; they are distributed by the wind. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. Small clonal colonies of plants are often produced from the long slender rhizomes.


The preference is light shade, moist to mesic conditions, and pockets of loose fertile loam with an abundance of decaying leaf litter. This fern likes high humidity and it should be located in a shaded area that is protected from the wind.

Edible Uses: Not known to us.

Medicinal Uses:
The whole plant is considered to be antirheumatic, astringent, demulcent, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, haemostatic, pectoral and tonic. A tea or syrup is used in the treatment of nasal congestion, asthma, sore throats etc. A decoction of the root was massaged into rheumatic joints. The N. American Indians chewed the fronds and then applied them to wounds to stop bleeding. A strong infusion of the whole plant was has been used as an emetic in the treatment of ague and fevers. This plant was highly valued as a medicinal plant in the 19th century and merits scientific investigation[

Other Uses:
The stipe of the plant is used as an ornament in basketry. The leaves can be used as a lining for carrying or storing fruits in baskets and on racks. The plant is used as a hair conditioner. The stems have been used as a hair wash to make the hair shiny. Plants can be used for ground cover when planted about 30cm apart either way, they form a slowly spreading clump.

Known Hazards:
Although we have found 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 supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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