Herb: Chain Fern

Latin name: Woodwardia radicans

Family: Blechnaceae (Chain Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Chain Fern:

Anthelmintic, astringent. A decoction of the roots has been used both internally and externally in the treatment of pain from injuries.

Description of the plant:


180 cm
(6 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Woodland margins, often by streams.

Other uses of Chain Fern:

Plants can be grown as a ground cover when spaced about 1 metre apart each way. The dried fronds and stems have been used in making baskets.

Propagation of the herb:

Spores - best sown as soon as they are ripe, though they can also be sown in the spring. Sow them 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. Do not plant outside until the ferns are at least 2 years old and then only in a very well sheltered position. Plants produce a plantlet at the tips of each frond. These can be detached from the parent plant and rooted in humid conditions in a frame or the fronds can be anchored down and the plantlet allowed to root in situ. Division in spring.

Cultivation of Chain Fern:

Woodland margins, often by streams.

Known hazards of Woodwardia radicans:

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.