FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Adiantum pedatum is a graceful perennial fern with black wiry stems and bright green foliage. Fronds are twice compound and branched into finger like segments. The delicate leaflets are small and feather shaped. In a happy site, plants form small colonies from underground rhizomes. This fern thrives in undisturbed woodlands or shaded gardens with humus rich soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Adiantum pedatum occurs in Eastern North America from Ontario to Mississippi and from Nova Scotia to Georgia. The range extends into the central United States from Minnesota to South Dakota and south to Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Plants are indigenous to undisturbed rich deciduous woods, stream banks and rocky shaded slopes or ravines. Habitats often contain limestone or sandstone outcrops and loose fertile soil with abundant organic matter. The preference is for cooler climates or cool microclimates.
Hardiness rating is from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Adiantum pedatum is a dainty deciduous perennial fern.
Each spring fronds emerge from beautiful rusty red fiddleheads. The fronds are supported by 6” to 18” erect petioles. Each petiole diverges into a pair of rachises or leaf bearing stalks. Each rachis bears several finger like pinnae that radiate from one side of the stalk.
The pinnae contain 5-25 pinnules or leaflet blades and are up to 12” long. The pinnules are 1” or less and oblong with a smooth lower margin and a lobed upper margin. Spore clusters form beneath the lobes toward the tips of the pinnules.
Since the rachises form at a right angle to the petiole, the pinnae are parallel to the ground providing the observer with a bird’s eye view.
The result is a lovely fine textured wreath shaped or fan-like display of bright green foliage on deep chestnut brown or black stalks.
Plants average 1-2’ tall with an equal spread and can slowly expand from wiry rhizomes to form small colonies.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Adiantum pedatum grows best in moist shaded sites with humus rich soils. This fern prospers in slightly acid to neutral soils and is intolerant of clay.
Plants require cool temperatures and high humidity and should be sheltered from wind. Short term drought can induce temporary dormancy but plants will generally return the following spring.
This delicate looking beauty is easy to grow and low maintenance in shaded exposures with rich, loose, moist soil.
As plants mature into lush groundcover stands they provide valuable habitat for small wildlife but are generally not palatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: The airy fine textured foliage of this fern make it a lovely and useful Accent for a Shade Garden. In appropriate sites, Adiantum pedatum matures into a verdant and soothing Groundcover, Grouping or Mass. This fern is a valuable component of Deer Resistant Plantings, Rock Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings and Wildlife Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing with Aquilegia canadensis, Carex plantaginea, Phlox divaricata or Tiarella cordifolia.
Athyrium filix-femina has similar cultural needs and can be substituted if needed.
TRIVIA: The generic name Adiantum comes from Greek and means "not wetting" because fronds droop and shed water without becoming wet. The specific epithet pedatum means “similar to a bird's foot” and refers to the finger like projections of the frond.