Adiantum - Adiantaceae

Adiantum aethiopicum L.

Photo: JE. Burrows
South Africa

Photo: JE. Burrows
South Africa






Common name

Common maidenhair fern


Rhizome widely creeping, 1-2 mm in diameter; rhizome scales brown to almost black. Fronds monomorphic, spaced c. 15-80 mm apart, herbaceous. Stipe thin, wiry, up to 9-26 cm long, dark brown to black, shining, scaly at first, later glabrous. Lamina 2-3 pinnate, ovate-deltoid to ovate-lanceolate in outline, 15-22.5 × 7.5-10 cm; pinnules persistent, broadly ovate to obcuneate, distal margin toothed, veins ending in the apices of the teeth; rhachis and stalks chestnut to blackish brown, shiny, glabrous. Sori 1-2, rarely 3, marginal, round to kidney-shaped, indusiate.


Resembles A. capillus-veneris which has more sori per pinnule (2-5), sori are oblong to lunulate in shape. A. poiretii and A. raddianum have the pinnule veins ending in the sinuses between the teeth not in the apices.


aethiopicum: referring to Africa south of the Sahara but often indicating South Africa.


Full shade on wet forest floor in clayey soil, altitude range 150-500 m. In South Africa confined to the south-western and southern Cape.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Australia, Norfolk Island and New Zealand.

Distribution in Africa

South Africa.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 124 - 126. (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 434 - 435. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 231 - 232. (Includes a picture).