Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

Fern
Phyllitis scolopendrium. (L.)Newman. Scolopendrium officinale. S. vulgaris.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Hart's Tongue Fern
Asplenium scolopendrium
Polypodiaceae

A good ground cover plant for shady positions[28, 200], so long as it is planted no more than 30cm apart each way[208]. Plants form a slowly spreading clump[208].

A decoction of the fronds is used cosmetically as a hair wash to counteract greasy skin and also as a face pack for delicate skin[7].

  • Medicinal Use

    The fronds are astringent, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 165]. Externally it is used as an ointment in the treatment of piles, burns and scalds[4]. An infusion is taken internally for the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, gravelly deposits of the bladder and for removing obstructions of the liver and spleen[4]. The fronds are harvested during the summer and can be dried for later use[7].

  • Edible Use

    None known

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].

Cultivation & Habitat

Spores – best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. The spores usually germinate in the spring[1]. Spring sown spores germinate in 1 – 3 months at 15¡c[134]. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse. Keep the plants humid until they are well established. Once the plants are 15cm or more tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in the spring. Division in spring. Leaf bases – dig up the plant and wash off the soil until the old caudex covered with ‘dead’ leaf bases can be clearly seen. Strip off these bases individually by peeling them down the caudex. At the point of attachment they will be green. Young plants can be raised by planting these leaf bases, green tip up, in a pot of loam-based compost and enclosing the pot in a plastic bag. Within one month green swellings will appear around the original point of attachment to the caudex, each of these will develop quite quickly into a young fern. It takes 3 months in summer but longer in winter[200].
Easily grown in a shady position in a soil that is rich in leaf-mould[187]. Prefers a light sandy soil[1]. Succeeds on chalk[28]. Plants can be grown on drystone walls[219]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a shady position with no more than 3 hours sunlight a day, greater exposure will cause yellowing and burning of the leaves[187]. One report says that it succeeds in dry shade[188]. Requires a pH of 6 or more in order to flourish. Plants are hardy to about -30¡c[187], they grow very well in SW. England[31]. A very adaptable plant[28]. There are many named forms, selected for their ornamental value[187, 200]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].
Central and southern Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa and eastwards to Japan.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.