Adiantum pedatum

Adiantum pedatum, or Northern maidenhair fern, is one of the various ferns you can find in the New England area. The Adiantum L. complex  is well defined, but the variations in the complex makes it difficult for botanists to agree upon taxonmonic methods for classifing  the group. There are four North American subspecies of Adiantum.  They are aleuticum, subpumilum, calderi, and our fern of discussion pedatum.

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A. pedatum  located at Goose Pond in Keene, NH

The dark shiny stems grow anywhere from 8-20 inches.  The leaves are a dark green and have a deciduous leaf retention, where they will fall off at the end of each growing season. Ferns which grow around small rock caverns show a variation in leaf structure. A study in the American Journal of Botany  revealed leaves in deep shade possessed tiny blade size compared to ferns in full light. The average leaf blade size range from 6 to 30 inches, and vein spacing was also determined to be effected by light exposure.

Maidenhair fern is easily propagated by rhizome division in early spring or late fall. They also propagate from spores when they mature in late summer and fall. The maidenhair fern possesses an alternation of generations between gametophyte and sporophyte forms in its life cycle. A study in the Canadian Journal of Botany explored the different life stages tolerance to cold temperatures and the species ability to live in frigid regions. The gametophyte generation was more resistant to freezing temperatures than the sporophyte generation. This gives evidence that the gametophytic generation is the one that survives in the cold temperatures of its habitat.

The Perennial will continue to grow back each year and is virilent in moist, cool, rich woods with shaded habitats. The soil should have a pH of around 6.8-7.2. Although they require a medium amount of water use they are not very tolerant to drought. In contrast, it can not survive in wet sites.

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A. pedatum in Goose Pond Forest, Keene, NH

Maidenhair ferns are very delicate foliage, but their black stems are dark and sturdy enough to use in basketry. Animals, such as toads and lizards, will used the fern as shelter. Humans have also used the leaves to treat respiratory conditions with tea made from leaves. Research in 2011 found that A. pedatum has antibacterial and antioxidant activites.