A cascade of delicate fronds trickles down the side of a hill. This is California maidenhair fern (Adiantum jordanii), one of the most beautiful ferns around. It’s tiny round leaflets are suspended from a black, hair-thin stalk; the overall effect is reminiscent of a mobile designed by Calder.
This native fern can be found growing in damp, shady places throughout most of California and into Oregon.
A lacy fern parasol hangs from the side of an earthen cliff. Each slim stem is topped with a spreading fan of fronds. This is five finger fern (Adiantum aleuticum), found most often in canyons and moist, shaded hillsides.
It’s in the same genus as the striking maidenhair fern, and one of its traditional uses is as a wash to make hair more shiny. Five finger fern tea was also used by Native Americans as a general tonic to treat congestion, sore throats, and other ailments. Chewed leaves were applied to wounds to stop bleeding. One source says it was highly valued as a medicine up through the 1800s.
It is said to grow readily in moist and shaded gardens, and is generally resistant to deer.