(ass-plee' nee-um)

Common name: Spleenwort

Family: Aspleniaceae

Height x width: 6-20" x 8-24"

Growth rate: moderate

Fronds: simple or pinnate varying with species

Sori: usually single along veins

Hardiness: variable with species

Soil: on dry side, alkaline

Light: filtered sun or part shade

Pests and Problems: scales (more indoors), rots from excessive wetness

Landscape habit, uses: woodland, rock gardens especially for dwarf species, front of borders in part shade; fine textured except for the coarse textured scolopendrium

Other interest: name used by Dioscorides from the Greek splen meaning spleen, refering to its supposed medicinal properties; native to the tropics and subtropics

Other culture: most species favor alkaline rocky sites except scolopendrium which favors a terrestrial woodland

Propagation: division, spores


One of largest genera of ferns with over 700 species. The following and their cultivars may be found in U.S. commerce with scolopendrium and trichomanes the most popular.

adiantum-nigrum--Black Spleenwort, zones 6-8, 6-12", creeping rhizomes for gravelly soils, blackish stems, fronds 3-pinnate


ebenoides--Scott's Spleenwort, zones 3-8, 10-20", tolerates high pH, a natural hybrid between playneuron and rhizophyllum, fronds pinnate at base and lanceolate

platyneuron --Ebony Spleenwort, zones 5-8, 12-20", dark green glossy fronds in herringbone-pattern, frond pinnate and linear to lanceolate

rhizophyllum--Walking Fern, zones 6-8, greenish to reddish stems to 6", long drawn out fronds lie flat on the ground, rooting at the tips forming linked colonies, fronds simple to pinnate at the base and deltoid to linear-lanceolate

scolopendrium--Hart's Tongue Fern, may be listed as Phyllitis, zones 5-8, 8-10", fronds simple and lanceolate to strap-shaped, cultivars include:

'Cristatum;--frond divide many times, each division crested

'Laceratum Kaye'--broad frond, narrow irregular lobes

'Undulatum'--frond margins wavy

trichomanes--Maidenhair Spleenwort, zones 3-8, hardiest of genus, 4-6", dark-stemmed arching fronds pinnate and linear; 'Incisum' prefers alkaline soil, deeply cut pinnae whorl outwards like a starfish

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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