Skip to content

Help us continue to build this resource.

Adiantum pedatum

Northern Maidenhair Fern, Five-fingered fern

Plant Details

Common Name: Northern Maidenhair Fern, Five-fingered fern
Family: Pteridaceae
Mature Height: 6" - 2'
Sun Requirement: Part shade to shade, Shade
Moisture Requirement: Moist
Flower Color: None
Bloom Time: Spring (May or earlier)
Special Characteristics: deciduous

Adiantum pedatum maidenhair fern
Adiantum pedatum maidenhair fern
Adiantum pedatum maidenhair fern

Click on images to view larger versions


Adiantum is Greek (adiontos) for unwetted, in that the foliage is water-repellent, and pedatum is Latin for the bird-foot shaped appearance of the fronds.

Garden Uses

Attractive ornamental fern for shaded, moist borders. Naturalizes well with low maintenance.


Clumping fern, with overall height 1 to 2-1/2 ft, and individual clumps spreading 1 to 1-1/2 feet, growing in part to heavy shade. Prefers humusy, acidic, moist but well-drained soil. Spreads slowly by branching rhizomes to form large colonies over time. The common name refers to the thin, wiry, dark stems.

Leaves and Stems

Deciduous, with finely-textured somewhat frilly and fan-shaped fronds on curved stalks, with stems that tend toward wiry, hairy, and reddish-brown to black. Fronds are palmately-divided (finger-like projections). Leaf blades are three-times compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets, which are further divided one or more times), and approximately 1 ft long. Fiddleheads, or crosiers, are pink as they emerge in spring.


Spore-bearing and non-spore-bearing fronds are similar in size.

Animal Associates

Considered deer-resistant.

Ethnobotanical Uses

Native Americans have used this fern medicinally, and the frond stems in basketry and to maintain patency of body piercings.

Garden Location

Performance Hall Garden (see garden map)


Native Plant Trust

Missouri Botanical Garden

Plant Profile by Kate O’Dell