Family: Aspleniaceae
Common Name: Spleenwort

Pound naturally in rainforests throughout the world, this genus of ferns comprises over 650 species. All of the species have creeping rhizomes and simple, pinnate or bipinnate fronds.


They may not all be available outside their countries of origin.

A. australasicum and the closely related A. nidus, known as bird's nest ferns, are probably the most commonly cultivated species. Widespread in rainforests and more open forests, where they grow on rocks or trees, they are also ideal for shaded areas or under trees where they enjoy dappled sunlight. The long, wavy-edged, undivided fronds grow to between 50 cm (20 in) and 2 m (6 ft). The central 'nest' catches falling leaf litter which breaks down into humus and helps to nourish the plant.

A. bulbiferum, mother spleenwort or hen and chickens, is a native of Australia and is widely cultivated. The robust rhizome is covered in scales and the attractive, tripinnate, erect fronds gently arch to 1.2 m (4 ft) long. The stems are green on the upper side and dark beneath, and the fine leaflets are dark green. This plant is distinguishable from other species by the small plantlets produced at the tips of the stems.

A. flabellifolium, necklace fern, is a native of Australia and New Zealand. It has a short rhizome, narrow, often prostrate, fronds up to 30 cm (12 in) long and wedgeshaped leaflets.

A. flaccidum, weeping spleenwort, is found in all of Australia's eastern mainland states and Tasmania. It has a short, scaly rhizome, drooping bipinnate fronds and thick, narrow, bright green leaflets which are 1 cm (1/3 in) long.

A. lyalli, from New Zealand, has 1 m (3 ft) long pinnate fronds, with grayish, scaled stems and leathery, oval-shaped leaflets, 15 cm (6 in) long.


Most species come from warm Climates and are grown in cool to warm greenhouses or conservatories, although a few are hardy. Under glass, grow in pots of compost consisting of loam, leaf mould and coarse sand. They need bright light but shade from strong sun, and moderate atmospheric humidity. Although requiring plenty of water during the warmer months, most species are tolerant of dry periods. The bird's nest ferns, particularly, tolerate dry conditions well. A. bulbiferum is propagated from the tiny plantlets growing from the little bulbs at the ends of the fronds, while A. flabellifolium reproduces from the plantlets at the tips of the fronds. Other species grow from spores or from division of the rhizome.


Most are tender and grown under glass.

Aspidistra      Astartea