Adiantum - Adiantaceae

Adiantum capillus-veneris L.

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Adiantum capillus Sw., nom. illegit.
Adiantum capillus-veneris L. var. kenyense Chiov.
Adiantum fontanum Salisb., nom. illegit.
Adiantum coriandrifolium Lam., nom. illegit.
Adiantum marginatum Schrad.
Adiantum pseudocapillus Fée
Adiantum paradisea Baker
Adiantum capillus-veneris L. var. pinnata Bonap.

Common name

Maidenhair fern


Rhizome creeping, 2-8 mm in diameter; rhizome scales awl-shaped, apex gradually tapering to a point, margin entire, c. 3 mm long, brown. Fronds monomorphic, closely spaced, erect or arching, herbaceous. Stipe thin, wiry, up to 25 cm long, dark brown to purplish black, shining, glabrous. Lamina 2-3 pinnate, pinnate near the apex, triangular to ovate-deltate in outline, 20 × 18 cm; pinnules persistent, wedge-shaped with straight sides, entire to deeply incised on the outer margin into narrow lobes with outer margin minutely toothed, 0.8-2.5 × 0.6-2.8 cm, veins ending in the marginal serrations; rhachis and stalks black, shiny, glabrous. Sori 2-6, beneath pinnule lobes on the undersurface of deflexed indusial flaps, 1-2 mm long, 1-5 mm wide; indusial flaps oblong or slightly curved, membranous, pale brown, glabrous.


A. capillus-veneris is 2-3 pinnate. It can be distinguished from similar species (A. poiretii or A. raddianum) by having oblong or lunulate sori and veins of the pinnules that end in the teeth of the serrations of the outer margins.


capillus-veneris: hair of venus


On moist cliff faces, on boulders and along streams or moist ditches, in low-altitude woodland or medium-altitude riverine forest, exposed or shaded. Very occasional epiphytic on trees in spray of waterfalls.

Distribution worldwide

Widespread in Africa, with the exception of West Africa. Throughout tropical, sub-tropical and warmer-temperate regions in the rest of the world.

Distribution in Africa

Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Chad, Dem. Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Western Sahara, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania , Tunesia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 123. (Includes a picture).
  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 430 - 431. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 228 - 230. (Includes a picture).
  • Kornas, J. (1979) Distribution and ecology of the Pteridophytes in Zambia. Polska Akademia Nauk Wydzial II Nauk Biologicznych. Page 62.
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Pages 68 - 69.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 74.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Page 112. (Includes a picture).
  • Verdcourt, B. (2002) Adiantaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 61 - 62. (Includes a picture).