Adiantum capillus-veneris

Venus maidenhair fern


Adiantum capillus-veneris

L. 1753

pronounced: ADD-ee-an-tum cap-ILL-uss VEN-er-iss

(Pteridaceae — the maidenhair fern family)

common name: Venus maidenhair fern

See Adaiantum spp. for a description of the genus.

The specific is Latin, capillus, hair, and veneris, of Venus. This is a delicate-looking, drooping fern with distinctive fan-shaped segments, with many clustered fronds on wiry black stems. It spreads by short creeping rhizomes that are covered in small brown scales, that are sometimes reddish brown or golden. The fronds are arching and hairless, and occasionally there is a bluish green or waxy tinge to the normally pale green leaves. These are pinnate, the individual leaflets often lobed or toothed along their margins.

The fronds are sometimes used as a garnish on sweet dishes, and the dried fronds are used to make a tea used to treat coughs, throat infections and bronchitis. The fern was the main ingredient of a Victorian patent medicine known as Capillaire, a widely used cough syrup. In some countries, a poultice is made from the fronds to treat stings and bites. In Nepal, a paste made from the fronds is applied to the head to relieve headaches.

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay, 2014.
Page last updated 29th September 2018