Botrychium onondagense Underw.
Osmunda lunaria L.
Common Name: Common Moonwort
Botrychium lunaria is a perennial fern growing from a short, erect rhizome. It produces a single frond each year, usually 5 - 15cm tall exceptionally to 25cm[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine.
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[
Widely distributed in arctic and temperate zones of Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Australasia.
Dry grassland and rock ledges[
], usually on peaty soils[
]. Prefers well-drained, moist, grassy areas, often occurring with Poa spp., and on gentle slopes and occasionally among rocks[
Prefers a moist free-draining soil[
The prothalli (small plants formed when the spores germinate) of this species form a symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhizal fungus in much the same way as orchid seedlings[
Plants can be hard to establish, they can be naturalized in a meadow or cultivated in the border where they should be left undisturbed[
Unlike most species of ferns, the fronds of this species grow up straight and not curled inward, crozier fashion[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
Moonwort has a long reputation as a vulnerary herb, the leaves are used externally as an ointment or taken internally[
]. They are also used in the treatment of ruptures and dysentery[
Spores - best surface sown as soon as they are ripe in a greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. Placing the pot in a plastic bag helps to maintain a humid atmosphere which promotes germination and growth. Prick out small clumps into pots when they are large enough to handle and keep moist until established. Grow on in a greenhouse for at least the first winter and plant out in late spring.
Division. It is best not to try and disturb this plant[