One of the most iconic images to the Pacific Northwest is the lush foliage of ferns growing in the shady understory of a verdant forest. Among the most common native ferns in our region is the Northern Maidenhair. This lovely perennial shrub flourishes in wet soil without too much direct exposure to sunlight. It grows best in soil that is rich in organic material, making the clay-filled soils of the Pacific Northwest an ideal place to find it, although it also grows naturally all along the Pacific coast as well as many points east.
In structure, it is similar to most ferns; Wiry, black rachis (stems) that split into the two curved branches with palmately divided fronds. The small, filmy leaflets give this fern its elegant and delicate appearance. The fronds can reach 1’ to 2.5’.
It propagates in two ways; through the spreading of its spores, or by the division of the central clump into smaller “starts” that can be planted in late winter through early spring. In nature, Maidenhair is often found along streams and creeks in shady wooded areas. In a landscape, this fern’s color and form are great for providing a pleasing color contrast with light or dark gray rocks and hardscapes.