Lots of fern species are producing spores at the moment. The pattern of these brown spore bodies, on the backs of the fern fronds, helps us identify the species, so it’s a good time of year to go exploring in places where our local ferns grow well.
Northern maidenhair is one of our best-known ferns, and is often grown in pots and in gardens.
Growing naturally in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, it is very similar to the “common maidenhair” Adiantum aethiopicum, whose wider range includes Africa, Australia, Norfolk Island and New Zealand. Indeed, both species used to be lumped together under the name “aethiopicum”, but botanists have decided that the variety which grows here in Queensland and in northern New South Wales is different enough to warrant a name of its own.
Most of us would find it difficult to distinguish between the two. Our local is a larger plant, with stronger coloured leaves and darker stems (black, as opposed to the deep reddish brown of common maidenhair).
Adiantum atroviride is much more drought hardy than Adiantum aethiopicum, and as such is far better suited to local gardens.
It is one of the earliest plants to recover after bushfires. I find it astonishing to see their delicate-looking fronds emerging on a hot, sunny, ash-covered slope .
So if we want to grow the local maidenhair species in our gardens, we need to be careful of our sources of supply, and check that we have the right species. We will be rewarded with tough plants, better suited to our own, sometimes difficult climate.