Adiantum aethiopicum L.

Common Maidenhair

Syst. Nat., edn 10, 2: 1329 (1759) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Native (naturalised in part(s) of state)

Rhizome above or below ground, slender, creeping and branched, covered with scales with long-tapering tips. Fronds tufted, often at intervals along rhizome, erect to spreading, lacy, 9–50 cm long. Stipe long, slender, brittle, reddish-brown to almost black, smooth and shining; scales few near base, pale, papery. Lamina triangular to ovate, 2–3-pinnate, yellow-green to mid-green, delicate, glabrous; rachises very slender, dark. Pinnae with slender stalks, distant; pinnules with fine, centrally attached stalks, fan-to wedge-shaped, 3–12 mm long, 3–13 mm wide, outer edges rounded, often with shallow lobes, finely toothed or scalloped. Sori 1–4, relatively large, each deeply sunk into pinnule lobe, covered by kidney-shaped to half-moon shaped reflexed leaf flap.

CVU, DunT, EGL, EGU, GipP, Glep, Gold, GGr, HFE, HNF, HSF, NIS, OtP, OtR, SnM, Strz, VAlp, VRiv, VVP, WaP, WPro. All States. New Zealand, south and tropical Africa. Common in exposed or protected habitats on edge of forest or in scrubland, particularly near creeks and on moderately shaded hillsides.

Although there are some significant morphological variants of this species Australia-wide (some of which probably warrant formal recognition), most Victorian populations are closely allied with typical A. aethiopicum. However, a distinctive entity with deeply lobed pinnules grows in the old gold mining area between Beechworth and Stanley, in north-east Victoria. These plants differ from A. aethiopicum in having deeply divided pinnules with 3–7 sori, and from A. capillus-veneris in having small, kidney-shaped sori with a deep notch. They grow intermingled with A. aethiopicum and presumably represent a local sport. This fern has been introduced into cultivation under the name of A. aethiopicum 'Mrs Frost'. Also sparingly established (e.g. Beaumaris, South Yarra), where growing inside a street drain and on a street wall.

Source: Entwisle, T.J. (1994). Ferns and allied plants (Psilophyta, Lycopodiophyta, Polypodiophyta). In: Walsh, N.G.; Entwisle, T.J. (eds), Flora of Victoria Vol. 2, Ferns and Allied Plants, Conifers and Monocotyledons. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
Updated by: Val Stajsic, 2018-09-26
Hero image
Distribution map
life Life
kingdom Plantae
phylum Tracheophyta
order Polypodiales
family Pteridaceae
genus Adiantum
Higher taxa


Source: AVH (2014). Australia's Virtual Herbarium, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, <>. Find Adiantum aethiopicum in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Adiantum aethiopicum in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Glenelg Plain present native
Victorian Volcanic Plain present native
Victorian Riverina present native
Gippsland Plain present native
Otway Plain present native
Warrnambool Plain present native
Goldfields present native
Central Victorian Uplands present native
Greater Grampians present native
Dundas Tablelands present native
Northern Inland Slopes present native
East Gippsland Lowlands present native
East Gippsland Uplands present native
Wilsons Promontory present native
Highlands-Southern Fall present native
Highlands-Northern Fall present native
Otway Ranges present native
Strzelecki Ranges present native
Highlands-Far East present native
Victorian Alps present native
Snowy Mountains present native

State distribution

Distribution map
Western Australia
Northern Territory
South Australia
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory