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North American Walking Fern Asplenium rhizophyllum

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Asplenium myriophyllum
  • Camptosorus rhizophyllus
Phonetic Spelling
ah-SPLEE-nee-um rye-zo-FYE-lum
Description

Walking Fern is native to eastern Canada and central to eastern states of the U.S. It is a small, perennial, evergreen fern that is considered endangered or threatened in some northeastern states of the U.S.  It is found growing in tufts in moist, shady, rocky cliffs, mossy rocks, and near streams or ravines.  It often grows on basic limestone rocks, but is sometimes also found on sandstone or other acidic rocks.  Walking Ferns sometimes, but less frequently, grow on fallen tree trunks.  It prefers light to dense shade, thin rocky soil, and areas sheltered from strong winds. This plant is characterized by narrow, smooth, elongated triangular-shaped, dark green frond blades that taper to a very slender tip.  The base of the blade has eared lobes on each side. Blade edges are slightly wavy and stems may be erect or ascending.  Fronds are highly variable in size on the same plant. Undersides are lighter green and contain spores that are released in summer or fall. The plant has a short rhizomatous crown and shallow fibrous roots.  It reproduces through spore dispersal and also propagates vegetatively.  Frond tips root where they touch moist soil, forming colonies of new ferns around the parent plant.  Floral-faunal relationships of this plant are not well understood.  Herbivore browsing is perhaps minimized due to its naturally inaccessible habitat.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant problems:  Does not tolerate prolonged drought.  May be susceptible to slugs, snails and some species of aphids.

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:
Tags:
#evergreen#fern#deer resistant#food source summer#food source herbage#Audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#fern#deer resistant#food source summer#food source herbage#Audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Asplenium
    Species:
    rhizophyllum
    Family:
    Aspleniaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    E. Canada to U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    Ontario, Quebec, U.S. - ALA, ARK, CONN, D.C., GA, ILL, IND, IOWA, KANS, ME, MD, MA, MICH, MINN, MISS, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, RI, TN, VT, VA, WV, WI
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 2 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 2 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Fern
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Clumping
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Description:
    No fruits. Spores display from May to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Description:
    No flowers
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Fronds
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Deltoid
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Sinuate
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Simple, arching, lance-shaped, slightly leathery fronds radiate from base. Fronds of young plants are close to the ground. Fronds are smooth, dark green, elongated and triangular and highly variable in size on the same plant. Dimensions range from 0.5 to 12 inches in length by 0.25 to 2 inches wide. Simple, narrow deltate to linear lanceolate leaves taper to a very long slender tip. The base of the blade is chordate or has eared lobes (auriculate). Margins are entire or sinuate, and slightly undulate. Undersides are lighter green, have sparse hairs and sori arranged in a herringbone pattern outward toward the leaf margin.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Green, smooth
  • Landscape:
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer