The Maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris L., 1753) is a fern belonging to the Adiantaceae family.
From a systematic point of view, it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Plantae Kingdom, Pteridophyta Division, Polypodiopsida Class, Polypodiales Order, Adiantaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Adiantum and to the Species A. capillus-veneris.
The term Adiantum comes from adiantum maidenhair in Pliny (from the Greek ἀδίαντον adíanton in Theophrastus, formed by the privative prefix α- a- and from διαίνω diáino to wet, soak): which does not get wet, reference to the water-repellent fronds of these ferns
The specific epithet capillus-veneris comes from capillus hair and from the genus of Venus Venus: hair of Venus; the connection between the epithet and the characteristics of this plant is constituted by the fact that, according to Roman mythology, when Venus came out of the sea foam it had dry hair, reference to the water-repellent properties of the fronds.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Southern maidenhair fern is a plant originating from temperate and tropical areas, widespread in Europe, Africa, North America and Central America.
This plant prefers a habitat characterized by shady and humid places, where it grows preferably in limestone soils near the waterfalls, at the mouth of the caves, in the wet ravines, in the wells, between the sea level and 1,500 meters.
The Southern maidenhair fern is a small fern that grows between 10 and 40 centimeters, geophyte and rhizomatous, with a creeping black-brown rhizome.
Plant characterized by hanging fronds, which can be more than 60 cm long, light and slender and heart-shaped leaves, with ovate foil divided up to 4 times, 5-10 millimeters long, of a pale green color which are inserted on a thin colored spine black and shiny.
Pinnules of variable size, petiolulate, flabelled, with wedge base and irregularly lobed apex. Sporangi in 2-10 lines parallel to the edge of the lobes folded to form a false cartilaginous indusio. Short sori, perpendicular to the edge of the lobe.
On the underside of the leaves i are the spores which are 34-49 µm globular, trilete and granular.
Adiantum capillus-veneris is frequently cultivated with the delicacy of its leaves, although it is a very delicate and demanding plant.
For its cultivation, like all ferns, it requires diffused light and must not be exposed to direct sunlight.
It requires abundant watering in summer and more limited during the winter, enough to keep the soil constantly humid. It reproduces by subdivision of the tufts.
For the details of the cultivation technique, see the following sheet.
Uses and Traditions –
The Southern maidenhair fern is also a plant linked to mythological legends for its connection to the water nymphs. Theocritus says that the plant was, among others, at the source where Hylas, one of the Argonauts, went to look for water for his ship. According to another myth, linked to the nymph Driope, she fell in love with a boy and kidnapped him in an underwater cave, near which a Capelvenere plant grows.
The Capelvenere was once used by folk medicine as an analgesic, regulator of menstruation and as a dewormer.
It is currently used in herbal medicine and phytotherapy where it is used for internal use with the infusion, or with tincture, in the treatment of colds, coughs, phlegm, laryngitis, pharyngitis, asthma, bronchitis.
In some areas it is used with a decoction to treat dandruff problems, and degrease the hair.
This plant contains mucilage, tannins, essential oil, bitter substances.
The directive of the Minister of Health (December 2010), allows the plant extracts of this plant to be included in food supplements, and in particular cites folium, herba.
Method of Preparation –
The Adiantum capillus-veneris, in addition to the therapeutic uses, with the preparation of infusions and decoctions, was used in the past times as a substitute for tea, especially in Piedmont from which the Piedmontese noun “Capilèr”, arrived to identify in general any infusion made with aromatic herbs.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for information purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore, no responsibility is accepted for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.