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Asplenium platyneuron

Previously known as:

  • Asplenium ebeneum
Phonetic Spelling
ah-SPLEE-nee-um pla-tee-NUR-on

Ebony Spleenwort is native to South Africa and North America east of the Rocky Mountains.  It is a diminutive evergreen fern that grows in a small clump from its rhizome. It belongs to the Spleenwort family of ferns whose name is based on historical belief that these plants had medicinal value pertaining to the spleen.  This species' common name is derived from its dark, shiny stem.  Some Canadian Provinces and U.S. states consider this plant a vulnerable or endangered species.  In its native conditions, it grows in a broad range of habitats such as rocky banks and outcrops, disturbed sites, fields, and wooded slopes.  It grows best in well drained rocky soils, in shade to part sun, with dry to medium moisture.  It is characterized by its dimorphic fronds.  Sterile evergreen fronds are lighter green, glossy, slightly arching or may lay close to or flat on the ground. Fertile deciduous fronds are erect, dark green and die off in the winter.  A central stem (stipe) is dark purple-brown.  Spleenworts do not produce flowers or fruit and primarily reproduce by spores located in sori on undersides of their leaves.  Ebony Spleenwort reproduces by spores and also propagates vegetatively, forming buds near the base of the stem on either sterile or fertile fronds.  Pale button-like buds appear on the upper side of the lowest leaflets.  When buds fall off and contact soil, or get covered over with woodland leaf litter, growth is stimulated and they produce new ferns as the parent plant dies off.  The upright form of the fertile fronds ensures efficient spore dispersal over long distances.  It does not propagate via its rhizome.  This fern is knowm to naturally hybridize with other species, producing sterile offspring.   In landscape or garden use, this fern does best in shaded, gritty, humus rich, well drained soils with dry to medium moisture.  It is not particularly sensitive to pH but prefers acidic conditions with pH 4.5-5.  It is easy to grow and suitable for woodland or native plant gardens in dry, rocky, shady crevices.

Insects, Diseases, and other Plant Problems:  This fern has no major diseases but is susceptible to slugs and black fern aphid.  If conditions remain too wet it may be susceptible to crown rot.

VIDEO Created by NC State Extension's Homegrown series featuring Mark Weathington, Director of JC Raulston Arboretum.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
#evergreen#shade garden#fern#deer resistant#food source summer#food source fall#food source herbage#FACU Piedmont Mountains#Coastal FACU#Audubon
Cultivars / Varieties:
#evergreen#shade garden#fern#deer resistant#food source summer#food source fall#food source herbage#FACU Piedmont Mountains#Coastal FACU#Audubon
  • Attributes:
    Life Cycle:
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America E. of Rocky Mts., S. Africa
    North America E. of Rocky Mts., S. Africa
    Play Value:
    Easy to Grow
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer, Heavy Shade
    Height: 0 ft. 8 in. - 1 ft. 8 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 8 in. - 1 ft. 8 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Description:
    This plant has no fruits. It reproduces via spores and vegetatively.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Description:
    No flowers
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Leaf Shape:
    Leaf Margin:
    Hairs Present:
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Slender, sterile, lighter-green, evergreen fronds are arching to flattened. Erect, dark green, deciduous fertile fronds whither in winter. Fronds taper at both ends. Fronds are blade-shaped, linear or oblanceolate, and wider at the upper half of the blade. The blades are shiny, pointed at the tip, tapered near the base and may have a few hairs. Each blade is cut into leaflets (pinnae) along its length (15-45 pairs), alternately arranged on rachis. Leaflets are oblong, each with an auricle at the base pointing toward the tip of the blade. Undersides may have minute scales. Edges are crenate or serrulate. Blades reach lengths of 20 inches and widths of 0.8-3 inches. Leaflets are 0.4-1 inch long. Leaflets have up to 18 pairs of sori on the underside, each 0.04-0.08 inches in size. Each pair points toward the base of the leaflet in a herringbone fashion. Buds form at the base of the stipe on sterile and/or fertile fronds, and sprout into new ferns when they contact soil.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Shiny, dark stems and axis
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Shade Garden
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade