Index
Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Asplenium Sp. - Spleenwort

Family: Aspleniaceae (Spleenwort family) [UMD-Eth]

"Plant in soil or on rocks; rhizome generally short-creeping to erect. Leaf: often tufted, generally glabrous; rachis often ± winged; blade simple or 1[many]-pinnate or forked; pinnae often more developed acroscopically, often without obvious midrib. Sporangia: indusia persistent, covering sori when young, later reflexed. (Greek: spleen)" [Jepson]


Local Species;

  1. Asplenium adulterinum - Corrupt spleenwort [E-flora]
  2. Asplenium trichomanes - Maidenhair spleenwort[E-flora]
  3. Asplenium viride - Green spleenwort [E-flora]

Uses of Asplenium SP.

Asplenium Ethnobotanical Uses
Asplenium adiantum-nigrum - "Medicine Woi.1" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium ceterach - "Astringent Tackholm; Bladder Tackholm; Diuretic Tackholm; Emollient Tackholm; Kidney Tackholm; Pectoral Tackholm; Spleen Tackholm; Vermifuge Tackholm" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium falcatum - "Medicine Woi.1" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium filix-foemina - "Astringent Steinmetz; Pectoral Steinmetz; Taenifuge Steinmetz; Vermifuge Steinmetz" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium horridum - "Stomach Eb25: 246" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium macrophyllum - "Beri-Beri Uphof; Diuretic Uphof" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium nidus J. SMITH - "Fever Burkill,1966; Labor Burkill,1966; Shampoo Burkill,1966" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium nidus - "Asthma Eb25: 246; Debility Eb25: 246; Halitosis Eb25: 246; Sore Eb25: 246" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium obtusatum - "Skin Uphof" [DukePhyt]
Asplenium ruta-muraria - "Expectorant Al-Rawi, Steinmetz; Medicine Woi.1; Pectoral FontQuer; Swelling Hartwell" [DukePhyt]

Asplenium ruta-muraria Linnaeus - wall-rue
Eurasia, eastern North America
Like Asplenium trichomanes, and for the same reason, the membership of A. ruta-muraria in the folk tradition is problematical. Moreover, a plant so widespread could be expected to have left more evidence of its use had it been much prized, yet only a solitary record has been traced for Britain and that not a certain one: a plant abundant on walls in Skye and believed to be this from the verbal description was held to be effective there in drawing the ‘fire’ from the skin in cases of erysipelas.62
In Ireland it has been identified as a ‘herb of the seven gifts’, valued in Tipperary for its ability to cure seven diseases,63 and possibly it was also the ‘wall fern’ employed in Kilkenny for kidney trouble.64 That it was boiled in milk and taken for epilepsy in Cavan,65 however, is seemingly more certain.[MPFT]

Asplenium septentrionale (L.) Hoffm. - forked spleenwort
The leaves were smoked to treat chest and head colds in Bhaderwah Hill, Jammu Province, India (Kapur 1996a).[UAPDS]

Food Uses of Various Sp.
Names Range Uses
Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum - L. Most of Europe south of the Faroes, including Britain, to the Himalayas, N. and S. Africa. Known Hazards: Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].

Other Use: A decoction of the herb is a good hair wash[17].
Medicinal Use: The plant is bitter, diuretic, laxative and ophthalmic[240]. It is taken internally to treat diseases of the spleen, jaundice and ophthalmia[240]. It is said to produce sterility in women[240]. A decoction or syrup made from the fronds is emmenagogue, expectorant and pectoral[240]. It is used to relieve troublesome coughs[4].(1)

Hen And Chicken Fern, Parsley Fern, Mother Spleenwort - Asplenium bulbiferum - G.Forst. Australia, New Zealand. Known Hazards: Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].

Food Use: Root - cooked. Young fronds - cooked. Used before they uncurl[183], they taste somewhat like a slightly bitter asparagus.(2)

Scale Fern - Asplenium ceterach - L.

Synonyms Ceterach officinarum. DC.

Central and southern Europe, including Britain, east to the Himalayas and Caucasus. Known Hazards: Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].

Medicinal Use: The whole plant is antitussive and diuretic[7]. It is widely used in the Mediterranean to treat gravel in the urine and is also used with other mucilaginous plants to treat bronchial complaints[7]. The taste is very bitter and needs to be sweetened with other herbs such as liquorice[7]. The plant is harvested from late spring to summer and can be dried for later use[7]. Some caution should be employed in its use since it has not been fully tested[7].(3)

Wall Rue, Lance asplenium - Asplenium ruta-muraria - L. Most of Europe, including Britain, Mediterranean, N. and S. Asia to the Himalayas, E. North America. Known Hazards: Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].

The fronds are astringent, deobstruent, emmenagogue, expectorant and ophthalmic[4, 7, 240]. A distilled water made from the fronds has proved of benefit in the treatment of many eye complaints[7]. The plant is also considered to be useful in the treatment of coughs and ruptures in children[4]. It was at one time used as a herbal remedy for rickets[219] and its tannin content renders it suitable for stopping bleeding from small wounds[7]. The fronds are harvested in late spring and dried for later use[7]. (4)

Hart's Tongue Fern - Asplenium scolopendrium - L.

Synonyms Phyllitis scolopendrium. (L.)Newman. Scolopendrium officinale. S. vulgaris.

Central and southern Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa and eastwards to Japan. Known Hazards: Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].

Other Uses: A good ground cover plant for shady positions[28, 200], so long as it is planted no more than 30cm apart each way[208]. Plants form a slowly spreading clump[208]. A decoction of the fronds is used cosmetically as a hair wash to counteract greasy skin and also as a face pack for delicate skin[7].
Medicinal Use: The fronds are astringent, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 165]. Externally it is used as an ointment in the treatment of piles, burns and scalds[4]. An infusion is taken internally for the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, gravelly deposits of the bladder and for removing obstructions of the liver and spleen[4]. The fronds are harvested during the summer and can be dried for later use[7].(5)

Accessed Feb 10, 2015

References


Asplenium adulterinum - Corrupt spleenwort

"Habitat / Range Dry to mesic walls of limestone fissures in the montane and subalpine zones; rare on Vancouver Island and in lower Fraser Valley; not known elsewhere in NA; Europe." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native. [E-flora]

This is a Blue-Listed Species in B.C. [E-flora]

"General: Evergreen from a short, stout rhizome, with clustered fronds." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Notes: This species is an allotetraploid which originated from a hybrid of the diploid species A. trichomanes x A. viride. Mokry et al. (1986) ascribed our plants to A. adulterinum ssp. presolanense, described from the Italian Alps, but Vogel et al. (1998) consider them to be typical A. adulterinum." [IFBC-E-flora]

References


Asplenium trichomanes - Maidenhair spleenwort

"Habitat / Range Dry to mesic rocks in lowland and montane zones; frequent in coastal BC, infrequent east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains in S BC south of 51degreeN; circumpolar, N to S AK, E to AB and disjunct in ON to NF and S to GA, LA, TX, NM, AZ and CA; Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Walls and crevices of mainly basic rocks[17]. Most temperate regions of the world, including Britain, mountains in the Tropics." [PFAF]

Status: Native.[E-flora]

SUBTAXA PRESENT IN BC

"Asplenium trichomanes is an evergreen Fern growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen from May to October.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

"General: Evergreen with clustered fronds." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Notes: A variable species. Two chromosome races (diploid ssp. trichomanes and tetraploid ssp. quadrivalens D.E. Meyer) were reported from North America (Moran 1982, Wagner et al. 1993), but their distribution in British Columbia is poorly known and requires further study." [IFBC-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
"A shade-tolerant/intolerant, montane to subalpine, circumpolar fern (transcontinental in North America). Occurs on water-shedding and water-receiving sites within subalpine boreal, cool temperate, and cool mesothermal climates. Sporadic in shrub or forest communities on steep colluvial slopes where it inhabits shaded, humid microsites on rocks, boulders, and stones that have very shallow, friable soils high in organic matter. Characteristic of colluvial sites." (Information applies to coastal locations only) [IFBC-E-flora]

Hazards

Thiaminase

"Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172]." [PFAF]

Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Asplenium trichomanes - "Deobstruent FontQuer; Medicine Woi.1; Pectoral Al-Rawi, Steinmetz; Sclerosis(Spleen) Hartwell; Vermifuge Al-Rawi, Steinmetz" [DukePhyt]

Asplenium trichomanes Linnaeus - maidenhair spleenwort
"Long and widely promoted by learned authors, Asplenium trichomanes must be regarded as doubtfully an age-old member of the folk medicine repertory. Its principal use, for severe coughs and chest complaints, certainly goes back at least to the seventeenth century in certain of the Inner Hebrides,57 but a lack of evidence to justify its Gaelic name of lus na seilg58 suggests that prescribing it for that supposed malfunctioning of the spleen was a borrowing from the herbals or learned medicine, while use of it in Cumbria as a hair tonic59 may be late and idiosyncratic.
In Ireland a cough cure known as ‘maidenhair’ once popular among country people in Londonderry60 was presumably this, as also an ingredient under that name boiled with honeysuckle and oatmeal into a concoction taken for dysentery in Cavan.61" [MPFT]

Asplenium trichomanes L. - "Head and chest colds were treated in Lesotho, Africa, by inhaling smoke produced by burning the leaves of this species (Perry 1980; Duke and Wain 1981)" [UAPDS]

Asplenium trichomanes L. - Maidenhair Spleenwort; Blechnaceae

Cultivation
"Requires a well-drained position and lots of old mortar rubble in the soil[1]. Requires a humid atmosphere and some shade[28, 31]. A good plant for growing on a shady part of an old dry-stone or brick wall[K]. Plants are hardy to about -30oc[200]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]." [PFAF]

Propagation
"Spores - best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. The spores usually germinate in the spring[1]. Spring sown spores germinate in 1 - 3 months at 15oc[134]. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse. Keep the plants humid until they are well established. Once the plants are 15cm or more tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in the spring." [PFAF]

Synonyms

References


Asplenium viride - Green spleenwort

"General: Deciduous with clustered leaves." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Notes: Some authors advocate the use of Linnaeus' name A. trichomanes-ramosum, which should be rejected as a trinomial. The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Tokyo Code) suggested use of the name "A. ramosum L." and at the same time, Zimmer & Greuter (1994) proposed to reject this name and retain A. viride." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Mesic to moist crevices in limestone and other basic rocks from the lowland and steppe to subalpine zones; infrequent throughout BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to AB and disjunct in ON to NF and S to VT, MI, WI, SD, MT, CO, UT, NV and OR; Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]

Synonyms

References


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