Northern Maidenhair Fern — Adiantum pedatum

Northern Maidenhair Fern - Adiantum pedatum, photo by Steven Foster

Overall At-Risk Score: 52

Latin name:

Adiantum pedatum

Common name:

Northern maidenhair fern, five-fingered fern






Northern Maidenhair Ferns reproduce via spores, rather than seeds, and require water to fertilize themselves. These spores grow into small heart-shaped plants called gametophytes, that possess both male and female reproductive organs. The sperm from the male part of the plant swims through to reach an egg in either its own gametophyte or one it finds nearby, to form a zygote, which grows using mitosis to form the plants we recognize as a fern.

Geographic Region:

Northern Maidenhair Ferns are native to the eastern half of the contiguous US. Specifically, they are found in the states of: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming, West Virginia.

It’s also native to the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.


The Northern Maidenhair, like many ferns, loves cool shady forests and can often be found around springs and streams.

Ability to Withstand Disturbance and Overharvest:

Maidenhair ferns are a multi-generational plant, which means that they require careful timing to ensure they can reproduce effectively. Since a fern’s spores are kept at the bottom of their leaves, overharvesting in an area can disrupt this process and leave a long-lasting impact on the local population

Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

The Northern Maidenhair Fern is listed as “Exploitably Vulnerable” in the state of New York.

Adiantum pedatum has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

The leaves of the Northern Maidenhair Fern have been used to try to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory issues.

Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species and Lookalikes:

The Northern Maidenhair Fern’s fronds are a very useful shelter to hide toads and lizards from predators.

Recommendations for Industrial and Home Use:

If intending to use Northern Maidenhair as a houseplant, make sure you’re getting it from a reputable nursery that cultivates them, or consider instead planting Royal Fern or a similar fern species that is listed as being of “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List.


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