Pioneer Valley Fern Society

Winter Ferns 2023-2024

Maidenhair Spleenwort #5

Maidenhair Spleenworts (Asplenium trichomanes) look delicate, but they hold up very well to our winter weather conditions. They generally grow on damp, mossy protected areas of ledges and in small holes and crevices in the rock face. It is very unusual to actually find examples of Maidenhair Spleenwort with ice or snow on them! If they do get some snow on them during a storm, they are usually in an area where the sun quickly melts the snow. Randy was able to capture this photo recently at Chard Pond.

They grow in pretty rosettes and have rounded leaflets on beautiful wirey ebony stems. If their form is distorted for some reason (like here by the ice), you can tell them apart from their closest look-alike, the Ebony Spleenworts, by noticing the Ebony Spleenworts's little leaflets have a longer shape and little "ears" similar to Christmas fern's.

One of my fern books (Ferns and Allied Plants of New England by Tyron & Moran) states that Maidenhair Spleenworts are one of the most widely distributed ferns, across the Americas, Europe and even into Africa, Asia and Australia. If you look them up on Google you will find people in England and Australia doing videos on them. The same book includes remarks about how to tell the difference between the diploid and tetraploids by whether they are growing on acidic to neutral rocks such as basalt, sandstone and gneiss (diploid), or basic rocks like limestone and dolomite (tetraploid). I mention this because GoBotany discusses two subspecies, most easily determined by whether they are growing on acidic or basic rocks. In this case I think I will just enjoy them as Maidenhair Spleenworts, but let us know if you dive into this division.