Plant Guide > Ferns > Smooth Rock Spleenwort Fern

Smooth Rock Spleenwort Fern



Athyrium fontanum
Aspidium fontanum
Polypodium fontanum

The Smooth Rock Spleenwort is one of our rarest British ferns; indeed, some botanists regard it as an alien. It is a small tufted-growing species, seldom seen more than three or four inches in height. The small fronds are evergreen, and mostly grow upright; the upper surface is deep green, the under part of a lighter shade. It greatly resembles Asplenium Ianceolatum, but is distinguished by its winged rachis. The sori are two to four on each segment, oblong and distinct when young, but when old united into an irregular mass, covering the upper part of the segment.

This fern may be considered a rarity in England, but is sometimes met with on old walls and rocks. It was described by Hudson as growing near Wybourn, in Westmoreland. It formerly grew on the walls of Amersham Church, in Buckinghamshire. It has been found at Matlock, in Derbyshire, and on a very old wall at Tooting. Specimens exist in the collection of the Botanical Society of London, said to have been gathered in Wharncliffe Wood, in Yorkshire. Throughout the continent of Europe, chiefly near the sea, in Madeira, and northward to the English Channel, this fern is found. It is recorded by Pallas as being a native of the Ural Mountains, in Siberia.

In the open air this pretty little fern is not very successful, and is exceedingly liable to die off in the winter, unless great care with regard to shade, shelter, and moisture, be taken; but under glass, in a Ward's case, or in a greenhouse, there is no difficulty in rearing it. In a small collection it is particularly desirable, from its small size and evergreen habit. Sandy peat, well drained, suits it best; and it is well to raise the caudex a little above the level of the soil, by means of pieces of soft sandstone.