Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1077 Asplenium nidus

Common Names: bird's nest fern Family: Aspleniaceae (bird nest fern Family)

a bed of bird's nest ferns
In frost free climates, dark shady spaces are brightened and beautified when planted in beds of bird's nest fern.


Bird's nest fern has long, lance shaped, bright green fronds that unroll from a central mass of hairlike black-brown fibers that suggest a bird's nest. Emanating erect and stiff as they do from a central point, the foliage grows in a funnel shape, and this too looks like a bird's nest. The fronds are entire; that is to say they are without teeth, lobes or pinnae. Spore capsules are produced in straight lines on the undersides of some fronds. Under ideal growing conditions, the fronds can reach 5 ft (1.5 m) in length. There are several named cultivars available. 'Fibriantum' has fronds that are contorted and have slightly jagged edges. According to some authorities, the bird's nest ferns available in commerce actually include more than just this one species.


Asplenium nidus occurs in tropical regions throughout the Old World. Ferns in general reproduce and spread with tiny, often wind-borne, spores and it is not unusual for some to have very large geographic distributions.


Bird's nest fern needs enough space around it so that the fronds do not touch anything or they will be damaged. Scale insects sometimes attack this fern and these should be taken off by hand. Chemical insecticides are toxic to Asplenium ferns and should never be used on them. Light: This fern thrives in low light conditions. Direct sunlight will cause the fronds to dry and turn brown. Bird's nest fern does best in front of a north facing window. Moisture: Although bird's nest fern does best in a humid atmosphere, and thrives with a humidity of 40% or greater, it survives under drier conditions than probably any other houseplant fern. For maximum performance, it can be kept in a terrarium or its container can be placed on a tray filled with pebbles and with water almost to the bottom of the container. Regular misting helps keep the fronds bright green and allows the plant to attain its maximum size. Specimens kept in a centrally heated room without misting will survive, but will probably not grow very large. Mist with rain water or boiled tap water. Keep the soil moist at all times except during the winter when the fern should be watered only when the soil begins to dry out. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Bird's nest fern is a tropical plant and does best with day time temperatures around 70° F (21° C) and night time temperatures around 60° F (15° C) Propagation: Bird's nest fern is propagated from spores which are sown as soon as ripe at temperatures of 60° F (15° C) or higher. Gently brush the spores onto a clay pot, keep the pot moist in a plastic bag, and keep it out of direct sun. Growth is slow.


Grow bird's nest fern in a container with a humus rich potting medium. In the wild, bird's nest fern is an epiphyte, growing on trees deep in the tropical rain forest. The nest shaped funnel of fronds collects rainwater and nutrient-bearing dust from the air, like a bromeliad. In cultivation, bird's nest fern is probably the easiest fern to maintain indoors. It grows slowly and is the ideal house plant, thriving in low light and low humidity where few plants could even survive. The graceful arching fronds should be given enough room so they do not touch any objects, including your hands!


The 700 or so species of Asplenium occur in tropics and subtropics worldwide. Some are terrestrial, some epiphytic and some grow on rocks. The generic and common names (spleenwort) derive from the supposed medicinal value (to the spleen) of the plants, as reported by the ancient Greek, Dioscorides. There is no basis in modern medicine to the belief, which was apparently based on the spleen shaped spore clusters.

Steve Christman 4/14/08

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Asplenium species profiled on Floridata:

Asplenium nidus

( bird's nest fern )

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