Athyrium filix-femina

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Athyrium filix-femina
Athyrium filix-femina0.jpg

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Division: Polypodiophyta
Class: Polypodiopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Suborder: Aspleniineae
Family: Athyriaceae
Genus: Athyrium
A. filix-femina
Binomial name
Athyrium filix-femina

Athyrium filix-femina, the lady fern or common lady-fern, is a large, feathery species of fern native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere as well as Central and South America. It is often abundant (one of the more common ferns) in damp, shady woodland environments and is often grown for decoration.

Its common names "lady fern" and "female fern" refer to how its reproductive structures (sori) are concealed in an inconspicuous – deemed "female" – manner on the frond.[1] Alternatively, it is said to be feminine because of its elegant and graceful appearance.[2]


Leaflets and sori
Unrolling young frond

Athyrium filix-femina is now commonly split into three species, typical A. filix-femina, A. angustum (narrow lady fern) and A. asplenioides (southern lady fern).

Athyrium filix-femina is cespitose (the fronds arising from a central point as a clump rather than along a rhizome). The deciduous fronds are light yellow-green, 20–90 centimetres (7.9–35.4 in) long and 5–25 cm (2.0–9.8 in) broad. Sori appear as dots on the underside of the frond, 1–6 per pinnule. They are covered by a prominently whitish to brown reniform (kidney-shaped) indusium. Fronds are very dissected, being 3-pinnate. The stipe may bear long, pale brown, papery scales at the base. The spores are yellow on A. angustum and dark brown on A. asplenioides.

A. filix-femina is very hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as −20 °C (−4 °F) throughout its range.'[3]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Numerous cultivars have been developed for garden use, of which the following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:

  • A. filix-femina 'Vernoniae'[4]
  • A. filix-femina 'Frizelliae'[5]
19th century illustration

The young fronds are edible after cooking; Native Americans cooked both the fiddleheads and the rhizomes.[6]


  1. ^ University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Lady-fern profile Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Wayside and Woodland Blossoms (1895) by Edward Step: "the Male-fern – so-called by our fathers owing to its robust habit as compared with the tender grace of one they called Lady-fern."
  3. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Athyrium filix-femina". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  4. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Athyrium filix-femina 'Vernoniae'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  5. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Athyrium filix-femina 'Frizelliae'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  6. ^ Benoliel, Doug (2011). Northwest Foraging: The Classic Guide to Edible Plants of the Pacific Northwest (Rev. and updated ed.). Seattle, WA: Skipstone. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-59485-366-1. OCLC 668195076.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hyde, H. A., Wade, A. E., & Harrison, S. G. (1978). Welsh Ferns. National Museum of Wales.

External links[edit]