This delicate, graceful perennial is found in rich, moist soil in the woods and in moist limestone outcroppings and ravines. Black stemmed fronds about 12″ long fan out in a whorl pattern that make it an easily recognizable plant. In the Clifton area, the bluffs around Popes Head Creek are a good place to spot Maidenhair Ferns.
The leaves were once used as a remedy for coughs, nasal congestion, asthma, and fevers. Steeped in hot water, the resulting tea or syrup was thought to be a coolant, expectorant, and antirheumatic. The Indians made a decoction from the stems of the plant that was used to make the hair shiny, but that’s not how it got the name Maidenhair. It is called that because of the fine, tiny hairs that are found on its roots.