Herb: Scale Fern

Latin name: Asplenium ceterach

Synonyms: Ceterach officinarum

Family: Polypodiaceae (Polypody Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Scale Fern:

The whole plant is antitussive and diuretic. It is widely used in the Mediterranean to treat gravel in the urine and is also used with other mucilaginous plants to treat bronchial complaints. The taste is very bitter and needs to be sweetened with other herbs such as liquorice. The plant is harvested from late spring to summer and can be dried for later use. Some caution should be employed in its use since it has not been fully tested.

Description of the plant:


15 cm
(6 inches)

Habitat of the herb:

Limestone rocks and mortared walls.

Propagation of Scale 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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Limestone rocks and mortared walls.

Known hazards of Asplenium ceterach:

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.