Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair Fern)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Maidenhair
Family:Pteridaceae (Maidenhair)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich deciduous woods
Fruiting season:summer, fall
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information


[photo of Fiddlehead] The reddish fiddleheads, sparsely covered in wiry hairs, appear in spring.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Stems (stipes) are very slender, dark colored, polished and shining, divided multiple times with thin papery scales on the lower part of the stem. A plant is up to 2 feet across, with branches of compound leaves (fronds) up to 12 inches long, held horizontally and spiraling along the stem, each with up to 24 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are wider than long, short stalked, often initially fan-shaped, becoming mostly oblong except the leaflet at the tip which remains fan-shaped. Leaflets are notched or lobed on the upper edge while the lower leaflet edge is not lobed. The surface is covered in forked veins.

Spores: Fruit type: spores on leaf

[photo of spores] Spores are found along the notched edge on the underside of a leaflet in summer to fall. The spore case (sori) may be linear to oblong, the leaf edge curling in around the spores.


Maidenhair fern has a wiry, dark, polished stem, making it almost invisible against the backdrop of the forest floor. Makes the leaflets look like they are floating in mid-air—a very graceful plant. There is nothing else quite like it. Maidenhair fern can perform well in a shady home garden in soil with sufficient organic matter. It can form colonies over time but is slow to spread.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Wild Ones Twin Cities Chapter

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Goodhue counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Linda - Duluth, Kenwood neighborhood
on: 2014-06-27 19:20:08

I brought this up from about 1 1/2 hrs south of Duluth more than 10 yrs ago and brought it from my former home when I moved to this new neighborhood. It's my little favorite plant.

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2015-10-31 01:45:24

Quite a bit of it at a nearby park.

Posted by: Joe L - Nerstand Big Woods State Park
on: 2017-10-09 05:36:07

While hiking on 10/7/2017, I found lots of maiden hair fern growing alongside the trails, particularly at the north end of the park on Fawn Trail. Still strikingly beautiful even at this point in the fall.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.