Athyrium niponicum var. pictum 'Ursula's Red'

athyrium Ursula's Red    Perennial of the Month-- February 2006 

(ah-THEAR-ee-um  ni-PON-i-cum  PIC-tum) (pronunciation at link, turn up volume if too low)

Common name: Red Japanese Painted Fern

Family: Dryopteridaceae, Wood fern family (one of several families some authorities have split from the Polypodiaceae; also may be seen listed in Woodsiaceae or synonym Athyriaceae)

Height x width: 12-18" x 12-18"

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: main attraction, emerging white on top in spring turning silver; wine red on undersides, lower centers near veins and stems; sori (spore sacs) along veins of pinnules in herringbone pattern as for genus; 2-pinnate pinnatafid (divided twice), roughly triangular in shape

Flowers: none

Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9

Soil: most, organic, moist but well-drained preferred

Light: part to full shade

Pests and problems: none significant

Landscape habit, uses: shade and woodlands, massed or containers; combines well with hostas (white edged or blue leaves), lungworts, hellebores, silver-leaved bugloss, dark-leaved low ferns

Other interest: from South Carolina plantswoman Ursula Herz; species native to Japan; similar are cultivars 'Burgundy Lace' with more purple veins and stems, or 'Pewter Lace' with silvery fronds and dark purplish central zone, or 'Silver Falls' with more silver and less red; genus name is Greek for "small door" referring to the flap (indusium) covering the spores which is hinged on one side

Other culture:  low maintenance

Propagation: spring or fall division, a vegetative clone

Sources: many complete perennial nurseries, local and mail-order

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