Photo by Friends of the High Line
The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.
This week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.
As the fall colors begin to fade, the Minutissimum dwarf lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina ‘Minutissimum’) serves as a bright green reminder of spring. While lady ferns can reach a height of three feet, the ‘Minutissimum’ cultivar grows only six to ten inches tall. The species has an enormous native range and can be found throughout North America and Eurasia in woodlands, marshes, and prairies. Though they are a pioneering species and sometimes the first plant to take hold on rock surfaces, lady ferns prefer humus-rich, moist soils. In the western United States, Athyrium filix-femina often grows as an understory plant and will completely carpet the forest floor in the right conditions. The fronds provide an abundant food source for grizzly bears.
Easy to grow, Athyrium filix-femina is an excellent choice for beginning gardeners. These ferns tolerate deep shade but do best with good morning sun. When planting in the garden, select a location that is sheltered from wind and rainwater runoff, as the fronds break easily. The fiddleheads – newly emerged, tightly curled fronds – are edible and can be harvested in the spring. Par-boiled and sautéed, they have a unique flavor reminiscent of artichoke and green beans.
Athyrium filix-femina usually begin losing fronds after the first frost, so catch these ferns soon! The High Line's Minutissimum dwarf lady ferns look especially radiant in the morning with eastern sunlight filtering through the surrounding birches.
WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Minutissimum’ can be found on the High Line between Gansevoort Street and Little West 12th Street
Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line’s most important gardening projects – become a member of Friends of the High Line today!