Herb: Hen And Chicken Fern

Latin name: Asplenium bulbiferum

Family: Polypodiaceae (Polypody Fern Family)

Edible parts of Hen And Chicken Fern:

Root - cooked. Young fronds - cooked. Used before they uncurl, they taste somewhat like a slightly bitter asparagus.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Riversides in lowland and lower montane forest in New Zealand.

Propagation of Hen And Chicken Fern:

Spores - best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Germinates in spring. Spring sown spores germinate in 1 - 3 months at 15C. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse. Keep them humid until they are well established. When they are at least 15cm tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. This plant can also be propagated by means of small bulblets that form on the sides of leaves in the growing season. Pot these bulblets up when they detach easily from the parent plant and grow on in the greenhouse for at least the first winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Riversides in lowland and lower montane forest in New Zealand.

Medicinal use of Hen And Chicken Fern:

None known

Known hazards of Asplenium bulbiferum:

Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.