Asplenium australasicum

Birds Nest Fern

Family: Aspleniaceae

A fern with fronds to about 1 metre long; epiphytic, forming clumps to 2 metres or so wide.

It is found along the entire coast of NSW, as extends west into the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley (Liverpool Range); extending south almost down the Victorian border (west of Merimbula); extending north along the coast into Queensland to Cape York.

It is typically found growing in trees (epiphytic) and on rocks (lithophytic) in rainforest and wet sclerophyll forests.

It is a clumping fern, easily identifiable, with its long fronds coming from a central origin which is a condensed rhizome.

Asplenium spp. exhibit a wide range of frond appearances as well as plant habits. In this species, the fronds are generally sword-shaped (lanceolate) to 80 cm long and about 20 cm wide, mid to light green in colour with a strong midrib, often with undulating margins.

Being a fern, no flowers or fruits are produced. Rather, spores are produced.

In this species, spores are produced in linear sori (spore-houses), to 6 cm long by 0.1 cm wide which are arranged in continuous parallel lines on the underside of the frond, along the secondary veins, from the midvein to about halfway to the edge of the frond.

In the garden

This is a very common plant in cultivation and has been for a long time.

Can be attached to trees and rocks in a garden and can also be grown in pots. Grow in dappled sun but keep out of hot western sun.

Give reliable moisture but can be self-maintaining if growing in a shady area with reliable rainfall.

It is a long-lived plant. Plants can suffer from leaf burn symptoms if too dry or hot, or if drainage is not free enough.

It can be grown in a container inside.

Likes some enrichment through organic compost or fertiliser addition.

Watch out for scale on the underside of its fronds, especially if grown inside.


Propagation is from plant division or by spores.

Other information

Can grow in fire-prone environments. Can regenerate from spores but probably does not like too hot or too frequent fires.

Due to its popularity in gardens, plants can be found establishing in bushland where they do not naturally belong. This includes sheltered gully forests near creeklines, especially sandstone.

Asplenium is a large genus of around 650 species, spread throughout much of the world. Australia has around 30 species occurring in all states and territories. NSW currently has 17 species.

Asplenium – from the Latin-Greek a– (without) and –splenio (σπλήνιο) meaning “spleen”. Asplenia is the medical condition for the absence of a spleen or a spleen that does not function correctly.
This genus is generally known as spleenworts as some species have sori which resemble the human spleen in appearance. This generated the belief in ancient times that the plants were then beneficial for the human spleen. The genus name means “no-spleen” or “no connection to the spleen”.

australasicum – Latin for “Australasia”, referring to the previously-thought distribution of the species.

This species is not considered at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Asplenium australasicum profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Asplenium~australasicum

Gardening with Angus – Asplenium australasicum profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/asplenium-australasicum-birds-nest-fern/

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke