Plants of
South Australia
Adiantum capillus-veneris
Limestone Maiden-hair
Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock painting: 1.


Adiantum from the Greek 'adiantos' meaning unwetted; referring to the leaves remaining dry when dipped in water. Capillus-veneris from the Latin 'capillus' meaning hair and 'veneris' refers to the goddess Venus; alluding to the delicate fronds.

Distribution and status

Found on the tip of the Yorke Peninsula, southern Mount Lofty Ranges, along the Murray River and in the lower South-east in South Australia, growing on limestone in erosion zones, sinkholes and wells. Also found in all mainland states and other countries. Native. Rare in South Australia. Rare in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Murray, Yorke Peninsula, Southern Lofty, South Eastern
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Delicate-looking, drooping fern with distinctive fan-shaped leaf segments and clustered fronds on wiry black stems. It spreads by means of short, creeping rhizomes covered in small brown scales, which sometimes appear reddish-brown or golden. The fronds are arching and hairless, occasionally with a bluish-green or waxy tinge to the usually pale-green leaves, which are pinnate, with individual leaflets often lobed or toothed along the margins. Fruits are sori (spores) on the underside margins of the fronds between the lobes. Seeds are very fine spores.

Seed collection and propagation

Look under the fronds and collect ones with spores and place in a seal paper bags to prevent spores from fulling out. Leave fronds in the paper bag to dry. The spores will fall off naturally or give the fronds a gentle shake. Use a very fine sieve to separate any unwanted material. Be careful as the spores are very fine. Store spores in an air tight container in a cool and dry place or in a -20oC freezer.