Adiantum capillus-veneris

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: maidenhair fern 
Type: Fern
Family: Pteridaceae
Native Range: Temperate and tropical regions worldwide
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Grow in consistently moist, neutral to alkaline soils in part shade to full shade. Plants in the wild will sprawl from wet limestone rocks. Native Missouri growing conditions are difficult to duplicate in home gardens. Notwithstanding the U.S. growing range of this plant, it may not be reliably winter hardy in USDA Zone 5.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Adiantum capillus-veneris, commonly called southern maidenhair fern, is a deciduous, clumping fern with a drooping habit that grows to 12-18” tall and slowly spreads by short creeping rhizomes. It features bipinnate to tripinnate fronds with wiry, black stems that are distinctively arching to pendent. Small pinnae (each to 1/2” long) are fan-shaped, having wedge-shaped bases and irregular lobing at the apex. Sori (spores) appear in summer on the reflexed pinnae undermargins. In Missouri, this fern is typically found in moist ledges and crevices of dolomite bluffs and on boulders along streams and rivers in the Ozark Mountains and adjacent areas (Steyermark). It is similar in appearance to northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), except among other things its fronds are unforked. Soft delicate finely textured foliage is attractive in woodland areas. This fern is native throughout the world in tropical to temperate regions including South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. In the U. S., it is uncommonly found throughout the southern states north to California, South Dakota and Ohio.

Genus name comes from the Greek word adiantos meaning unwetted in reference to the water repellent foliage.

Specific epithet comes from Latin meaning hair (capillus) of Venus (veneris) as reflected by the sometimes used common name of Venus maidenhair fern for this species.


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaves may scorch in direct sun. Fronds will die back quickly if soils are allowed to dry out.


Ornamental fern for shaded areas of woodland or native plant gardens.