Asplenium gracillimum

Hen and Chicken Fern

Family: Aspleniaceae

A very attractive clumping fern confined mainly to the mountainous areas on the NSW coast and tablelands junctions. It also grows in Qld, Vic, S.A and Tasmania. Plants in NZ are named Asplenium bulbiferum.  It is typically found in mountainous rainforest, growing on rocks, trees or trunks of other plants.

This fern has a very nice form with fronds to 120 cm long, erect to pendent. The fronds are considered compound-bipinnate with the segments of the fronds strongly divided into pinnatifid segments, dark to light green. The fronds themselves are also very thin and seemingly fragile.

Being a fern, no flowers or fruits are produced.
Spores are produced in linear to elliptic sori, to 4 mm long, with up to two underneath each terminal frond segment.

Propagation is from plant division or by spores

In the garden

Common fern in cultivation. It can be grown as an indoor and outdoor plant. Grow in dappled shade with reliable moisture and an enriched soil, it likes shady gardens. Can be used in around water features. Likely needs some shelter to do well. Can be established on tree fern and other trunks to resemble its natural way of growing.


Other information

This species used to be part of Asplenium bulbiferum. Recent studies have re-classified the Australian species. Websites which provide information for growing this plant likely refer to Asplenium bulbiferum.

Likely grows in habitat not prone to fire.

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 functions. 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”.
gracillimum – Latin for “very slender”, referring to the pendent delicate fronds.

Not considered at risk in the wild.



By Dan Clarke