Asplenium polyodon

Sickle Spleenwort / Mare’s Tail Fern

Family: Aspleniaceae

A pendent fern which a thick rhizome, often found growing epiphytically on trees or on rocks. It is found in rainforest, along the length of the NSW coastal areas extending just into the ranges and into Queensland, and just into Victoria. Also grows in New Zealand

It has compound-pinnate fronds, to about 1 m long, with the fronds having a Blechnum-like appearance with the frond segments lanceolate to linear with an acuminate apex and toothed edges. The segments are thin, to about 15 cm long.

Being a fern, no flowers or fruits are produced.

Spores are produced in sori, to 11 mm long, linear, on the underside of frond segments

Likely grows in areas where fire is not a problem. Likely detrimented by fire.

In the garden

Not much is known about its cultivation currently.

It could be grown in pots indoors and would lend to rainforest and moist shady gardens.

Can be grown as an epiphyte on trees and rocks.

Likely needs good drainage and mostly shade to thrive.

May be able to be established on rock walls and similar substrates if plants can be sourced.

May suffer from scale if grown indoors. It would make a nice addition to a green house or fernery.


Propagation is from plant division or by spores.

Other information

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”.

polyodon – Greek – poly (πολυ) meaning “many” and odos (οδούς) meaning “teeth”, referring to the toothed segments on the fronds. There is also a fish genus called Polyodon (Paddlefishes)

Not considered at risk in the wild.


By Dan Clarke