Adiantum hispidulum

Rough Maidenhair Fern, Five-fingered Jack, Five-finger Maidenhair

Family: Pteridaceae

A widespread perennial fern, found naturally in both rainforest and open, exposed areas in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Also occurs outside of Australia. In NSW, it grows along the extent of the coast and into the central and northern tablelands and western slopes. It does not grow in the general western half of the country.

Grows into a small, upright clumps amongst rocks, its fronds arising from the short dark clumped rhizomes to about 70 cm high.

The stipes (stalk of a frond of a fern) are dark in colour and slightly rough to touch.

The fronds are considered compound-pinnate and is this species, are divided palmately or into 2 where each offshoot may split again. Hence, the foliage consists of paired or palmately arranged pinnae (frond sections made up of segments). The segments (pinnules/leaflets) are to 13 mm long, pale to dark green long and to 7 mm wide, roughly rectangular, diamond or fan-shaped. Young growth may have a pinkish tinge before it matures into the dark green foliage.

Being a fern, no flowers or fruits are produced.

Spores are produced in sporangia, which are housed in a sorus (plural sori). The sori are produced on the underside of frond segments and follow the segment edges. There can be 20 sori per segment.

In the garden

This a hardy fern which performs best in soils containing appreciable organic matter with plenty of moisture. It is more tolerant of sun and drying out than other fern species.

Not overly common in cultivation but it is available from plant outlets.

Suitable for growing in pots, but needs high humidity (like bathrooms) but not too much water.

It is promoted in the US as a cultivated plant (see resources).


Other information

Propagation is from plant division or by spores
Can likely regenerate from rhizomes after fire.

Adiantum – from the Greek adianton (ἀδίαντον) meaning “not wetting” or “un-wet-table”, referring to the fronds’ ability to shed water without becoming wet, likely due to the waxy surface of the segments.
hispidulum – is a Latin word meaning “bristly”, “rough”, “hairy” or prickly” finely bristly (hispid), covered with coarse hairs, referring to the hairy stems. The suffix “ulum” a diminutive, indicating that the hairs are small.

Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

By Jeff Howes