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Maidenhair Spleenwort Greening Up the Woods

ebony spleenwort 083Five species of spleenworts (genus Asplenium) can be found in New England. Most of these small, native, evergreen ferns are found growing among rocks or on cliff faces. The Greeks believed that a species of spleenwort was useful for treating diseases of the spleen. The genus name Asplenium is derived from the Greek word for spleen (splen).

Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) is divided into two subspecies, one that grows in crevices of acidic rocks and one that grows on more basic (alkaline) rocks. It grows in tufts and has long (three to six inches), delicate fronds made up of short, round leaflets paired from the central dark reddish-brown stem (stipe and rachis). If in doubt as to whether or not a spleenwort is Maidenhair, examine the stipe and rachis with a hand lens; if there is a narrow wing running the length of the fern frond, it is A. trichomanes.

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3 responses

  1. I do love the times, like this one, when your posts seem to be reading my mind: What is this lovely green plant I’m noticing, gracing these boulders and outcroppings, now that the forest is mostly brown? I was wondering… Thanks once again!

    December 1, 2015 at 9:27 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    Do stipe and rachis mean the same thing in this case? If not, how are they different?
    By the way, I just got your Animal Mouths book. It’s good!

    December 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    • Hi Kathie, The stipe is the part of the stalk below the leaf blade, rachis runs through blade section. Glad you like Animal Mouths!

      December 1, 2015 at 1:51 pm

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