Herb: Painted Fern

Latin name: Athyrium niponicum

Synonyms: Asplenium niponicum, Athyrium nipponicum

Family: Polypodiaceae (Polypody Fern Family)

Edible parts of Painted Fern:

Very young fronds (croziers) - boiled. Some caution is advised. See the notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Shaded places in lowland all over Japan.

Propagation of Painted Fern:

Spores - surface sow in a pot of sterile compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep moist, this is most easily done by putting the pot in a plastic bag. Pot up small clumps of the plants when they are large enough to handle and keep them moist until they are established. Plant out in late spring of the following year. Division in spring as plants come into growth. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.

Cultivation of the herb:

Shaded places in lowland all over Japan.

Medicinal use of Painted Fern:

None known

Known hazards of Athyrium niponicum:

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.