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Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Plant of the Week: Northern Maidenhair Fern

By Ayumi Akimoto | May 23, 2018

Adiantum pedatum, also called northern maidenhair fern, is one of my favorite plants that you can find here on the High Line. It is a deciduous perennial plant, and like many ferns, it is in the Pteridaceae family. This fern can grow to 2.5 feet tall and 1.5 feet wide. In the wild, they are native to the rich, moist forest floor in Eastern North America and are often found on limestone or sandstone bedrock. They prefer slightly alkaline soil but they also can grow in lower pH soil. Adiantum pedatum has delicate bipinnate leaves, and with those fan-shaped leaflets and glossy black stems, they are very distinctive and interesting.

It was when I saw those pinkish, wiry fiddleheads in the spring that I didn’t know were Maidenhair ferns that I really fell in love with this plant. Pink-reddish fiddleheads growing up from the forest floor look almost like small alien creatures to me.

I have been going back to see them every morning, and the pink-reddish stems have gradually turned a glossy black. Spring is the time when we can witness how plants change and transform dramatically, and it happens very quickly. Many times you cannot even recognize the plant you knew from summer and fall. If you miss witnessing these unusual looking fiddleheads, don’t miss it next spring! But please come see the ferns now as they are unfurling.

You can propagate A. pedatum by dividing it into clumps after a few years when the plant is mature. They prefer to be in cooler temperatures, and the soil has to be evenly moist. They can tolerate heavy shade, preferring to not be in full sun. It is hardy from USDA zones 3 to 8. Adiantum pedatum is also deer-resistant.

You can find Adiantum pedatum at Phillip A. & Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover, between West 25th and 27th streets.

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 500 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. Every week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

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.

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TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.