Herb: Hard Fern

Latin name: Blechnum spicant

Synonyms: Lomaria spicant

Family: Blechnaceae (Chain Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Hard Fern:

The leaflets have been chewed in the treatment of internal cancer, lung disorders and stomach problems. The fronds are used externally as a medicine for skin sores. A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

Habitat of the herb:

Woods, heaths, moors, mountain grassland and on rocks, to 1200 metres.

Edible parts of Hard Fern:

Root - cooked. An emergency food, used when all else fails. Young shoots (often called croziers) - cooked. The young tender stems can be peeled and the centre portion eaten. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails. It is also chewed to alleviate thirst on long journeys.

Other uses of the herb:

A good ground cover plant. Relatively slow growing but succeeding in the dense shade of trees.

Propagation of Hard 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. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep humid until they are well established. Overwinter for the first year in a greenhouse and plant outside in late spring or early summer. Division in spring or autumn. 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:

Woods, heaths, moors, mountain grassland and on rocks, to 1200 metres.

Known hazards of Blechnum spicant:

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.