Adiantum capillus-veneris

Adiantum Capillus-veneris (Maidenhair fern)

Capillus- veneris  means hair of Venus, the goddess of love named by ancient Greeks because it has stunning fronds, ʻcapillus’ means “hair” and ʻvenerisʼ comes from Venus. [1]

Maidenhair Fern  Erbil/ Kurdistan Taken by Sherzad Ali

wild Maidenhair Fern                    Taken in Kurdistan/ Iraq -by Sherzad Ali

Family Adiantaceae

Common Names: maidenhair fern, true maidenhair,southern maidenhair, venus hair fern, ladies hair, avenca, adianto, barun, fern karn dam, frauenhaar, herba capillorum veneris.

Synonyms: Adiantum capillus, A. michelii, A. modestum, A. tenerum. [2]

Feature Characters

 Unlike many other native British and Irish ferns, the appearance of Adiantum capillus-veneris is extremely distinctive. It might be easily recognized by the characteristic shape of the pinnules (Brownsey and Smith -Dodworth, 1989), also by the shape of sori which is oblong extending along the margins [3].


Showing sori of Maidenhair fern

Showing sori of Maidenhair fern

Plant Description:

Adiantum capillus-veneris  Segments with transparent false indusia and near ripe sori.

Adiantum capillus-veneris Segments with transparent false indusia and near ripe sori/ By Sherzad Ali

The Maidenhair fern is a small non-flowering plant (35cm rarely up to 45cm tall) spread by spores It has a creeping rhizome mass which is covered with narrow chaffy-brown scales [4]. A. capillus-veneris is known as a rock dwelling fern, often found on damp limestone cliffs.  It has mid-green tufted fronds which are bipinnate [5]. The fronds are approximately 20-30cm long when held straight (Kaye, 1986). In the cold winter fronds are deciduous.  Leaflets are individual and lobed around the margins, the lamina is light green and translucent with veins showing in silhouette. The leaf blades are usually 2-3 pinnate, with each pinnule having several lobes. The petioles and rachis are shiny, slender, and deeply brown to almost black. The pinnules are fan shaped segments surrounded with marginal teeth which is different to any other fern [6].

The spores are three sided (trilete) and contained in the sporangia until ripe. Sporangia are produced in clusters on special lobes at the tips of the leaflets which are grouped into clusters called Sori. The false Indusium is formed by the margin of the lamina. Spores ripen in May to September (Hutchinson and Thomas, 1996).

false indusium to show sporangia/ By sherzad Ali

false indusium to show sporangia/ By sherzad Ali

The southern maidenhair fern is quite like the northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) in appearance. The true (Southern) maidenhair fern looks like Adiantum venustum except that is less frost tolerant, the pinnules of venustum are not quite deeply lobed (Grounds, 1974).

Maidenhair fern is resistant to most insect and disease damage, but it is categorized as threatened species in Kentucky and endangered in North Carolina due to loss of habitat.


True maidenhair fern grows in limestone rocky places with regular water. It can be easily found in ponds, shady alkaline, moist cliffs and self-sown on brick bases of greenhouses, it prefers calcareous soils and is also found on sandstone (Small, J. 1964), but grows occasionally in acidic  to neutral soils (Riffle, R. 1998) .

Adiantum capillus veneris     Duhok-Kurdistan Taken by Sherzad Ali

growing Adiantum capillus veneris near the wet places and ponds 
Taken in Kurdistan/ Iraq -by Sherzad Ali


Adiantum capillus-veneris is cosmopolitan in high temperate and subtropical regions. It has a wide geographical distribution and may appear in many geographic forms showing slight variations. It is the only British wild maidenhair fern and a maritime species in Britain which is recorded from some sites along the south and west coasts (Rickard, 2002). It grows occasionally in south west of England, Wales, Ireland and south west Europe. It ranges as far north as Virginia and Missouri in the East of the United States, the others reach only the latitude of Florida and Texas. In addition it is widespread in Asia, particularly in Kurdistan where it is remarkably widespread both on limestone and sandstone in moist places. It is also widespread in the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, Mascarene Islands, Madagascar, Australia, Polynesia, Cuba and Madeira (Hutchinson, B., and Thomas, B. 1996).


Planted in moist soil and partial dark shade it can thrive.  During early spring, remove old or damaged fronds and replant rhizomes which can be divided every few years.

Using true maidenhair fern as Ornamental plant:

True maidenhair fern is mid-green with soft fronds, it gives an attractive shape and colour. It is an ornamental fern for shady areas which is used as a native plant in gardens. Nowadays it is becoming more popular and can be easily seen in nurseries and private gardens. People planted this ornamental plant in pots to give a stunning view.  In Europe and Japan it is cultivated as an ornamental plant because of its attractive evergreen fronds (Nakane, et al. 1999).


Using true maidenhair fern as herbal medicine:

Adiantum capillus-veneris is known as herbal fern which is used in many regions as a

Photo shows using Maidenhair fern as syrup  for some disease.

Photo shows using Maidenhair fern as syrup for some disease. Link

herbal medicine for a variety of problems. It is in the treatment of bronchitis in folklore medicine in Chinaʼ [7]. In Kurdistan dried maidenhair fern is rehydrated and boiled in water then the filtrate is used  as a drink to get rid of kidney stones, because it is used as a diuretic [8], it is also used for detoxifying the liver and shortness of breath [9]. In the Philippines fronds are used as treatment for chest disease, and also used for cold, coughs and difficulty of breathing in Iraq, and Iran [10]. It has been used for respiratory and urinary disorders. Found to be useful for helping to clear up coughs, and for congestion, and hoarseness.

It is also used as syrup in various regions in central and South America, in Amazon and Peruvian  as diuretic also in France a syrup from the fronds is used to reduce mucus and cough which is called “Sirop de Capillaire,” . And finally England use’s true maidenhair for some disease such as asthma, hair loss and shortness of breath (Ansari, and Ekhlasi, 2012).



[1] Product (n.d.). Retrieved 12th January 2014, from

[2] Tropical plant database. (2013). Fern retrieved 11/10/2013,

[3] Maidenhair fern (n.d.). Retrieved 17th January 2014, from

[4] Adiantum capillus-veneris (n.d.). Retrieved 14th January 2014, from

[5] Department of Natural Resourse, Environment and arts (n.d.). THREATENED SPECIES OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY VENUS-HAIR FERN Adiantum capillus-veneris. Retrieved from 18/10/2013, from

[6] Adiantum capillus-veneris (n.d.). Retrieved 11th January 2014, from

[7& 8] Nakane, T., Arai, Y., Masuda, K., Ishizaki, Y., Ageta, H., & Shiojima, K. (1999). Fern constituents: six new triterpenoid alcohols from Adiantum capillus-veneris. CHEMICAL AND PHARMACEUTICAL BULLETIN-TOKYO-47, 543-547

[9] Herbal remedies using maidenhair fern (n.d). Retrieved 10th January 2014, from

[10] Family. polypodiaceae  (n.d.). Retrieved 20th January 2014, from


Ansari, R., Ekhlasi, K.(2012). Journal of advanced scientific research. Adiantum capillus-veneris. L: Phytochemical Constituents, Traditional Uses and Pharmacological Properties: A Revie.21/10/2013, from scienceage.

Brownesdy, P. and Smith-Dodsworth, J., (1989). NEW ZEALAND FERNS AND ALLIED PLANTS. Auckland 10: David Bateman.

Grounds, R. (1974). Ferns. London: Pelham books.

Kaye, R. (1968). Hardy Ferns. London: Faber and Faber.

Riffle, R. (1998). The tropical look An Encyclopedia of Landscape Plants for Worldwide Use. London: Thames and Hudson.

Small, J. (1964).Ferns of the southern states. New York: Hafner publishing company.

Thomas, B. and Hutchinson, G., (1996). Welsh Ferns (7th ed.). Cardiff: National Museums and Galleries of Wales.

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