Ebony Spleenwort



Asplenium platyneuron
new fronds with croziers, May 2015


The day after my last post, I went to Hoyles Mill Conservation Park (in the Little Seneca Creek watershed, near Boyds), hoping to find some evergreen ferns. There was a nice stand of Christmas fern along a bank:


Looking closer I saw a second species: ebony spleenwort.  It’s the smaller, lighter-colored fronds on the left in this picture:


At twelve to twenty inches tall, ebony spleenwort is one of the larger members of its genus.  It’s wide-ranging, from Quebec south and west as far as Arizona, and can be found in a variety of habitats.  Look for it on embankments, rock outcroppings that have a little soil, even old stone fences.  It’s listed as special concern in Maine and exploitably vulnerable in New York.



a specimen near C&O Canal lock 8, August 2015




The name “asplenium” is from the Latin, meaning “without spleen”.  The specific epithet “platyneuron” can be translated as “flat-nerved”.


underside of a pinna on a fertile frond, showing indusia and sporangia



Several other evergreen ferns can be found in the Maryland Piedmont; I’ll be posting about them in the coming weeks.

Fern of the Day: Ebony Spleenwort

Asplenium platyneuron



right: a not typical looking ebony spleenwort
(note the circinate vernation)





below: a fairly typical looking ebony spleenwort


The spleenworts are known to hybridize freely, making field identification difficult.  In this case, the stipe and lower part of the rachis were black, suggesting ebony spleenwort


but it’s impossible to know for sure.

At any rate I wanted to post this because the plant looks neat and I love the pictures.  Also to get the earworm “ebony spleenwort” out of my head.  Note that I got the phrase “circinate vernation” out, too.