Hart’s tongue fern 101

By June 15, 2022 No Comments

Plant ID fight club

Do you struggle with botanical names? I know I do. Remembering botanical names is always a fight. As soon as I learn a few new ones, I see a plant I know and it takes me several minutes to recall Liatris spicata. So, this blog post is a kind of trick. While it introduces you to an evergreen fern, Asplenium scolopendrium, it also builds my memory and yours. I hope.

Asplenium scolopendrium stands out in our gardens because its fronds are solid and evergreen. I love the way it looks.

When my residential clients asked me about plants for their shady sidewalk bed, I mentioned the Hart’s tongue fern and they bought some. Of course, after learning the botanical name Asplenium scolopendrium I picked up the plastic pot and the tag said Phyllitis scolopendrium. I shouldn’t have panicked because my Google search would soon reveal that it was just a synonym, not a different species.

Asplenium has a connection to “spleen” and scolopendrium refers to “centipedes”, presumably because the sori (spores) on the frond undersides are arranged in rows, thus resembling centipedes.

Now, I’m hoping this information will jog my memory when I walk by a specimen of Asplenium scolopendrium. If it doesn’t, I will have to Google my own blog post. But, I feel like this is a good start. Spleen and centipedes.

Caring for Asplenium scolopendrium

I could list everything here but you might as well read the tag I photographed. One key is good drainage because this fern can suffer from root rot. Otherwise, it’s disease and pest free.

Install fun

Shady corner install

Good clients listen and learn from you. When I suggested a few of my favourite shade plants, they bought them without hesitation and at hefty retail prices.

We put Black Mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus) in front and two fern species in the back: Asplenium scolopendrium and the native sword fern (Polystichum munitum). They all looked fine a year later when I visited the home recently; there is adequate shade but I do wonder about road salts spilling over.

To summarize

Remembering botanical names isn’t easy but it’s important. I struggled to remember Asplenium scolopendrium but typing it out in this blog post 35 times might help. You can also think Asplenium (spleen) and scolopendrium (centipedes). That might hep jog your memory.

Another important step in remembering botanical names is actually planting the specimens in the ground. I keep plant tags whenever possible; and sometimes my wife finds them laundered and shredded at the bottom of our washing machine.

Now, when I go back to my client’s place to do bed clean-up, I should be able to blurt out Asplenium scolopendrium. I might even remember Phyllitis.

Note the sori in lines, thus the specific epithet scolopendrium which refers to centipedes.

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