Asplenium trichomanes

Common Spleenwort

Family: Aspleniaceae

A delicate erect ground fern, growing from a rhizome, forming erect fronds to about 20 cm long.

It has a curious natural distribution, spread very far. In NSW, it is found generally in higher altitudes on the tablelands, usually on limestone substrates and other rocks, from as far north as near Lismore (but not extending into Queensland), scattered to the south and more-often occurring on the central and southern tablelands, close to the Victorian border. It occurs over some of the eastern half of Victoria, then disjunctly in the very south-west corner, extending into South Australia around Mt Gambier. There are more records further north of here and around Port Lincoln. It is found close to the south coast in WA in the east of the state and then found again south of Perth, on the very west coast (south of Bunbury). It occurs in Tasmania, recorded more commonly in the western half. It also commonly grows in New Zealand as well as New Guinea. It is also common in the northern hemisphere.

It grows in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest as well as coastal heathlands and shrublands and mallee-shrublands, especially in exposed rocky locations (often growing as a lithophyte).

The entire species likely consists of subspecies, occurring in different habitats.

Asplenium spp. exhibit a wide range of frond appearances as well as plant habits. In this species, fronds very similar to Asplenium flabellifolium, but grows upright with linear fronds which are divided into segments and so are considered compound-pinnate. Fronds are to 20 cm long by 2 cm wide, with separate segments/pinnae that are lanceolate to oblong, pale green to about 1 cm long.

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

Spores are produced in sori (spores houses), to 3 mm long, on the underside of the frond segments in pairs, with 3 to 6 pairs per segment.

In the garden

Not much is known about its cultivation currently. However, it is cultivated overseas (see references). Reputed to be hardy, doing well in containers, rock gardens and shady beds.

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

It is often found on limestone substrates so consider this when planting.

May suffer from scale if grown indoors. Likely frost tolerant, although this might be aligned to where plants are from.


Propagation is from plant division or by spores.

Other information

Likely able to regenerate after fires from rhizomes.

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”.

trichomanes – Greek (τριχομάνες) – basically translating to “hairpins”, referring to the brown scales on the rhizomes.

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

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

INaturalist – Asplenium trichomanes profile page                        https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/75609-Asplenium-trichomanes

By Dan Clarke