Adiantum polyphyllum

Today’s photograph was taken on a January visit two years ago to the impressive Ferns Conservatory at the Montréal Botanical Garden, Canada’s largest botanical garden. The scanned illustration (and the accompanying text in the first comment below) are from a public domain work by Sir William Jackson Hooker, Garden ferns; Or, Coloured figures and descriptions: with the needful analyses of the fructification and venation, of a selection of exotic ferns adapted for cultivation in the garden, hothouse, and conservatory. This book was digitized by Google and can be downloaded in its entirety as a PDF or viewed online.

Adiantum is broadly distributed worldwide, with centres of diversity in Andean South America and eastern Asia. Representatives of the genus are also found in North America (Adiantum aleuticum), Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

It is difficult to find much information online about this particular species. Native from Venezuela to Peru, Adiantum polyphyllum was scientifically described and published in 1810 by the German botanist Carl Willdenow. However, the specimens he described were likely collected by the “founder” of biogeography and plant explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. For an excellent overview on the topic of ferns and biogeography, see: Barrington, D. 1993. Ecological and Historical Factors in Fern Biogeography. Journal of Biogeography. 20(3): 275-27. (might be a restricted-access link).

Known commonly, perhaps, as either giant maidenhair or many-leaved adiantum, Adiantum polyphyllum is a sizable fern (see this photograph), with a stipe to perhaps 0.6m (2ft) in height and fronds reaching an additional 1m (3ft) in length. I was struck, as Hooker describes it, by the “intensely ebeneous-black stipites and rachises”.

Adiantum polyphyllum
Adiantum polyphyllum

6 responses to “Adiantum polyphyllum”

  1. Daniel Mosquin

    And Hooker’s writings about the species, as digitized by Google (see link above to download or view the entire public domain book)…

  2. Dianne Huling

    I was unable to get the link to download this monograph. I am able to view it online but there is no way to convert that to a copy/paste situation. What have I not done? It’s a lovely photograph with the yellow ball of light. I looked this fern up in The RHS Index of Garden Plants by Mark Griffiths. It states that this fern is native to Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Trinidad. The fronds emerge pale pink. The pink along with the ebeneous-black stipites and rachises would make a really nice effect.

  3. elizabeth a airhart

    giant maiden hair grows ih florida tis tropical enough down here
    google search shows two or so books the tropical look robert lee riffle
    fern growers manual hoshizaki/moran -and a lot of images
    and zipcodezoo.com i do like botanical drawings
    i do think daniel the first picture would make a great poster-thank you

  4. :)

    wonderful !

  5. elizabeth a airhart

    roses are red
    violets are blue
    happy valentines
    to all of you

  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Dianne — I had to download the entire PDF, extract the couple pages I wanted, then reopen those in Photoshop to convert them to JPGs for display here.
    In the upper right corner of the linked page from the “viewed online” hyperlink, there is a Download PDF link to retrieve the whole document.

Leave a Reply