The fresh shoots 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
Although we have found no reports for this species, a number of ferns also contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable
Young shoots, harvested before they have fully unfolded, can be eaten cooked
. They must not be eaten raw - see the notes above on toxicity
. Used in spring, they are a bitter emergency food
Rhizome - peeled and slow-baked
. Reports that the root of this plant were eaten by native North American Indians are likely to be mistaken, it was probably Dryopteris expansa that was used
A good ground cover plant
, forming a slowly spreading clump
. The cultivar 'Minor' has a denser habit and spreads more freely, making a better cover
There are no material uses listed for Athyrium filix-femina.
A tea of the boiled stems has been used to relieve labour pains
. The young unfurled fronds have been eaten to treat internal ailments such as cancer of the womb
The roots are anthelmintic and diuretic
. A tea of the boiled roots has been used to treat general body pains
, to stop breast pains caused by childbirth and to induce milk flow in caked breasts
. The dried powdered root has been applied externally to heal sores
. A liquid extract of the root is an effective anthelmintic, though it is less powerful than the male fern, Dryopteris felix-mas
Spores - surface sow in a pot of sterile compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep moist, this is most easily done by putting the pot in a plastic bag. Pot up small clumps of the plants when they are large enough to handle and keep them moist until they are established. Plant out in late spring of the following year.
Division in spring as plants come into growth. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Athyrium filix-femina. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
An easily grown plant
, it is calcifuge and prefers an acid soil with a pH from 4.5 to 6.5, but it tolerates alkaline soils if plenty of leaf mould is added
. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist sheltered site with moderately high atmospheric humidity
A very ornamental  and polymorphic species, there are many named varieties selected for their ornamental value.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
There are no interactions listed for Athyrium filix-femina. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.
Polycultures & Guilds
There are no polycultures listed which include Athyrium filix-femina.
This table shows all the data stored for this plant.
Material uses & Functions
Native Climate Zones
Adapted Climate Zones
Native Geographical Range
Root Zone Tendancy
? 1.01.11.21.3 Schofield. J. J. Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest. ()
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? 3.03.13.2 Turner. N. J. Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples UBC Press. Vancouver. ISBN 0-7748-0533-1 (1995-00-00)
? 4.04.1 Gunther. E. Ethnobotany of Western Washington. University of Washington Press ISBN 0-295-95258-X (1981-00-00)
? 5.05.15.25.220.127.116.11.7 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
? 6.06.16.2 Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover J. M. Dent & Sons ISBN 0-460-12609-1 (1990-00-00)
? 7.07.17.2 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
? 8.08.18.28.38.4 Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
? 9.09.19.29.3 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (1991-00-00)
? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)
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