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Asplenium

Polypodiaceae
Ferns

Widespread and variable group of rhizomatous ferns, once called spleenwort for alleged medicinal value. These evergreen species resemble one another only in botanical details and in their need for shade and liberal watering. Unlike many other ferns, they need a rest period from late fall to early spring when grown indoors; during that time, reduce watering and withhold fertilizer.

Asplenium bulbiferum
Asplenium bulbiferum

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Asplenium bulbiferum

From Australia, New Zealand. Graceful, very finely cut light green fronds to 4 ft. tall. Plant grows about 4 ft. wide. Fronds produce plantlets that can be removed and planted. Hardy to 26°F/–3°C. Watch for snails and slugs.

Asplenium scolopendrium
Asplenium scolopendrium

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Asplenium scolopendrium

Native to Europe, eastern U.S. Odd fern with undivided, strap-shaped leaves 9–18 in. long; forms a clump about 2 ft. wide. Fanciers collect various dwarf, crested, or forked varieties. Needs humus; also add some limestone chips if soil is deficient in calcium. Difficult to grow where water quality is poor.

Striking in woodland or rock gardens and with rhododendrons and azaleas. Durable container plant; grows in a tight crown and can remain in the same pot for years.

Asplenium trichomanes (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Asplenium trichomanes (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Asplenium trichomanes

Native to much of the Northern Hemisphere, this delicate fern grows in a clump to 6 in. high and 8 in. wide. Narrow bright green fronds are 4–8 in. long; round (or nearly so) leaflets are only 1/2 in. long. Likes lime. Attractive in wall crevices where it can be seen close up or in a shady rock garden.

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