Asplenium gracillimum

Hen and Chicken Fern

Family: Aspleniaceae

A very attractive clumping fern, with fronds to 120 cm long, all originating from a central clump (rhizome).

It is naturally confined mainly to the mountainous areas on the NSW coast and tablelands junctions as well as the southern tablelands and south coast botanical subdivisions, but extends as far north as just into Queensland, found generally in one location west of Springbrook. In NSW, it is found as far north as the Grafton-Coffs Harbour-Armidale region, then south in disjunct patches, extending west into the Wollemi NP area and Lithgow-area, then found in disjunct patches down to the Victorian border. In Victoria, it is found commonly through the southern half of the state and into the north-eastern parts. It just extends into South Australia, growing near and north of Mt Gambier. It is very common in New Zealand.

It is typically found in mountainous rainforest, growing on rocks (lithophyte), trees or stems of other plants (epiphyte).

Asplenium spp. exhibit a wide range of frond appearances as well as plant habits. In this species, this frons are very attractive to 120 cm long by about 30 cm wide, erect to pendent; 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. Rather, spores are produced.

Spores are produced in linear to elliptic sori (spore-houses), to 4 mm long, with up to two underneath each frond segment.

In the garden

A 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.

A very attractive fern.


Propagation is from plant division or by spores.

Other information

This species used to treated as Asplenium bulbiferum subsp. gracillimum. 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 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”.

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

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

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

VICFlora – The Flora of Victoria Online – Asplenium gracillimum profile page https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/339df8c5-3b97-42cd-8ec0-1abd539b14c7

INaturalistAU – Asplenium gracillimum profile page                  https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/taxa/399757-Asplenium-gracillimum

By Dan Clarke