Herb: Hart's Tongue Fern

Latin name: Asplenium scolopendrium

Synonyms: Phyllitis scolopendrium, Scolopendrium officinarum, Scolopendrium vulgare

Family: Polypodiaceae (Polypody Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Hart's Tongue Fern:

The fronds are astringent, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary. Externally it is used as an ointment in the treatment of piles, burns and scalds. An infusion is taken internally for the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, gravelly deposits of the bladder and for removing obstructions of the liver and spleen. The fronds are harvested during the summer and can be dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Moist banks and walls, rocks in damp shady places in woodlands, often on lime-rich soils.

Other uses of Hart's Tongue Fern:

A good ground cover plant for shady positions, so long as it is planted no more than 30cm apart each way. Plants form a slowly spreading clump. A decoction of the fronds is used cosmetically as a hair wash to counteract greasy skin and also as a face pack for delicate skin.

Propagation of the herb:

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. The spores usually germinate in the 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 greenhouse. Keep the plants humid until they are well established. Once the plants are 15cm or more tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in the spring. Division in spring. Leaf bases - dig up the plant and wash off the soil until the old caudex covered with "dead" leaf bases can be clearly seen. Strip off these bases individually by peeling them down the caudex. At the point of attachment they will be green. Young plants can be raised by planting these leaf bases, green tip up, in a pot of loam-based compost and enclosing the pot in a plastic bag. Within one month green swellings will appear around the original point of attachment to the caudex, each of these will develop quite quickly into a young fern. It takes 3 months in summer but longer in winter.

Cultivation of Hart's Tongue Fern:

Moist banks and walls, rocks in damp shady places in woodlands, often on lime-rich soils.

Known hazards of Asplenium scolopendrium:

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.