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Athyrium filix-femina spp. asplenioides

Common Name(s):
Southern lady fern
Ferns, Native Plants

Athyrium filix-femina, commonly called lady fern, is a deciduous fern that features lacy-cut, erect or ascending, 2 to 3-pinnate or pinnatifid, finely-divided, lanceolate, light green fronds which grow in a dense circular shuttlecock-like clump to 2-3' tall. Each frond (leaf) has twenty to thirty pairs of elliptic non-opposite pinna (leaflets) with narrow pointed tips. Each pinna is divided into deeply-cut lanceolate to oblong pinnules (subleaflets). Sori and indusia are found on the undersides of the pinnules. This is a circumglobal species which is found in rich moist woods, thickets, fields, meadows and ravines throughout northern North America, Europe and Asia.

Subsp. asplenioides, commonly called southern lady fern, is native from Maine to Florida and Texas. Subsp. asplenioides primarily differs from the species by (a) brown spores, (b) upright to creeping rhizomes, (c) frond width is greatest near the base of the frond, and (d) stipe (stem) length is shorter than the blade length.

It is easily grown in rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Tolerates drier soils than many other ferns. Will tolerate full sun, however, only if soil is kept constantly moist. Shelter from wind to protect fronds from breaking. Divide clumps in spring every few years to reposition crowns at the soil level.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains               

Wildlife Value:    This plant is seldom damaged by deer.  This plant provides ground cover and its parts are used in bird nest construction.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Fronds frequently become somewhat tattered in appearance by mid summer.


1-3 ft.
There is little difference between sterile and fertile fronds. The fronds feature a feathery texture. The fronds have a red stem.
Part shade to full shade
deciduous, low maintenance, shade garden, deer resistant, woodland garden

NCCES plant id: 178

Athyrium asplenioides Athyrium asplenioides plant
NC State University, CC BY - 2.0
Athyrium asplenioides Athyrium asplenioides leaf
NC State University, CC BY - 2.0
Athyrium filix-femina spp. asplenioides Frond
Homer Edward Price, CC BY - 2.0
Athyrium filix-femina spp. asplenioides Sori, or spores on underside of frond.
MurielBendel, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Athyrium filix-femina spp. asplenioides Form
Peggy A. Lopipero-Langmo, CC BY - 2.0
Athyrium filix-femina spp. asplenioides Fiddlehead
Rror, CC-BY-SA-3.0