Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum capillus-veneris
Pteridaceae, a Fern Family
Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Fern
How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.
Song of Songs 1:16 NIV
Maidenhair Fern

Cultural Information

TypePerennial to cold hardiness zone 6 or 5
Height12 to 20 inches
Soilmoist to wet, rich, well-tilled, good to add leaf mold
Exposuredeep to partial shade, sheltered from full sun
Leavesdainty, fan-shaped with ruffled end edge, single, 1/4 inch leaves arranged, odd-numbered into leaflets along a segmented, central stems with arching form

Planting Tips

  • plant maidenhair in shady areas where a mass of warm, verdant green will complement and fill in between other shrubs
  • a great plant for underplanting hedges or evergreen shrubs
  • provide even, consistent watering, keep soil evenly moist
  • may fade or die back in winter, but count on its spring revival as temperatures warm to 50 or 60 degrees
  • maindenhair fern will slowly propagate by rhizome, a 6" transplant should increase 1 to 2 feet each year
  • A. capillus-veneris is the species growing in the En Gedi area of Israel, however there are many Adiantum species all recognizable as maidenhair fern wih few speciifc distinctions

Garden to Table

  • maidenhair fern fronds are an excellent choice as greenery for floral arrangements and bouquets
  • with careful attention, follow individual stems through the mass of foliage back to the plant base and cut singlely
  • best to cut several fronds across the breadth of the plant to keep from leaving a gap in the plant's form
  • notice a subtle range of green hues and select fronds accordingly
  • mass maidenhair as a stand alone arrangement - dainty leaflets add a strong green, botanical element and sense of movement as the leaves ruffle in air currents
  • use individual fronds as placemats, espcially under glass plates - cut just before the meal is served to avoid shriveling
  • adorn napkin rings or ties with a sprig of maidenhair fern
  • good choice for boutineres, wedding bouquets, and cake decorations (non-edible)

Additional Resources

See Blog Posts on Maidenhair Fern
Adantium capillus-veneris, southern maidenhair fern, has been reported by travelers to the En Gedi area over the centuries, though not identified specifically in the Bible. It is not quite a surprise that the sporophytes are missing from Scripture, due to God’s passion for bearing fruit, which fern families don’t do, and the general Mediterranean and desert climates contrasting the usual moist, woodland habitat for ferns. However, the tender green fronds might be encompassed in the description of the lovers’ “verdant” bed (Song of Songs 1:16), and imagine the trunk of the tree “planted by a stream of water” surrounded by the delicate maidenhair, as this species loves the shade-covered water’s edge (Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8).
-from the NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible
Maidenhair Fern

Photo Credits

©2018 Shelley S. Cramm Maidenhair fern in a Texas garden
©2018 Shelley S. Cramm detail of maidenhair fronds
©2018 Shelley S. Cramm maidenhair fern planted along water's edge at Phipps COncervatory, Pittsburgh, PA -- all ferns pictured here are Adiantum, not specific A. capillus-veneris
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