Asplenium pteridoides

Hen and Chicken Fern

Family: Aspleniaceae

A very attractive clumping fern, erect to pendent, with fronds to 40 cm long.

It is confined to Lord Howe Island, where it is typically found in mountainous rainforest, growing on basalt substrates in cool rain forest understorey.

It is considered to be mainly terrestrial whereas other species like A. gracillimum can be epiphytic.

Asplenium spp. exhibit a wide range of frond appearances as well as plant habits. In this species, fronds are 40 cm long by 10 cm wide, 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 terminal segments of fronds (pinnae) are diamond-shaped. 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 3 mm long, with up to two underneath each terminal frond segment.

In the garden

Not known to be in cultivation. This is likely due to its rare natural occurrence on Lord Howe Island. It may be available from some nurseries. It likely requires the same conditions as that of A. gracillimum.

It may be possibly be grown as an indoor and outdoor plant.

Likely best grown in dappled shade with reliable moisture and an enriched soil, in shady gardens. Can be used in and around water features.


Propagation is from plant division or by spores.

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. It is very similar to the mainland species, A. gracillimum but has different shaped frond segments and overall shorter fronds.

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”.

pteridoides – Latin – resembling the genus Pteridium (Bracken Fern).

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. However, it is rare with a very small natural geographic distribution – confined to mountain tops on Lord Howe Island.

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

Wikipedia – Asplenium pteridoides profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asplenium_pteridoides

By Dan Clarke