Acrostichum spicant (L.) Willd.
Asplenium spicant Bernh.
Lomaria spicant (L.) Desv.
Onoclea spicant Hoffm.
Osmunda spicant L.
Struthiopteris spicant (L.) F.W. Weiss
Common Name: Hard Fern
Plant growing in native habitat, showing both sterile and fertile fronds
Photograph by: Boris Gaberš?ek
Blechnum spicant is an evergreen fern, forming a somewhat loose cluster of fronds up to 60cm tall and spreading slowly by short creeping rhizomes. The plant produces two types of frond - sterile fronds are evergreen and spreading, often laying horizontally on the ground by the end of the growing season; whilst fertile fronds are longer and erect, withering by the end of the season[
Often grown as an ornamental in gardens, where it can be used to make an effective ground cover in shady positions, the plant was traditional medicinal uses and has also been eaten in times of shortage.
Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[
Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[
Europe - Norway to Spain, east to Ukraine and Greece; Asia - Caucasus, Turkey, Lebanon; Africa - Morocco to Tunisia; N. America - Alaska to California
Woods, heaths, moors, mountain grassland and on rocks; at elevations to 1,200 metres[
]. Wet coniferous woods and swamps, primarily along the coast and in coastal mountain ranges; at elevations to 1,400 metres in western N. America[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Blechnum spicant has a very wide native range from the Arctic regions of Alaska to the mountains of N. Africa. It grows in hardiness zones ranging from 5 - 8, but avoids areas with low rainfall. Although cold tolerant, young growth in spring can be badly damaged by late frosts.
Best grown in humusy, acidic, evenly moist, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade[
]. A calcifuge plant[
], it prefers a moist shady nook in the rock garden or a position in open woodland in a moist soil[
]. Succeeds in quite dense tree shade if the soil is moist[
]. Prefers a moist position and a northerly aspect but succeeds in sun and in clay soils[
A polymorphic and very ornamental species[
], there are several named varieties[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
Root - cooked. An emergency food, used when all else fails[
Young shoots (often called croziers) - cooked[
]. The young tender stems can be peeled and the centre portion eaten[
]. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails[
]. It is also chewed to alleviate thirst on long journeys[
The leaflets have been chewed in the treatment of internal cancer, lung disorders and stomach problems[
The fronds are used externally as a medicine for skin sores[
A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea[
A good ground cover plant[
]. Relatively slow growing but succeeding in the dense shade of trees[
Spores - best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep humid until they are well established. Overwinter for the first year in a greenhouse and plant outside in late spring or early summer.
Division in spring or autumn. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.