National Geographic : 1925 May
FERNS AS A HOBBY 581 Photograph from John K. Small VENUS'-IIAIR, CURTAINING A BLUFF OF THE APALACHICOLA RIVER, FLORIDA Here, as elsewhere throughout its wide range, the Venus'-hair or Southern Maidenhair (Adiantum capillus-zeneris) often covers perpendicular rocks to the exclusion of all other ferns and of flowering plants. The graceful drooping fronds, spread to catch all the light, form a wonderful mosaic. in thin shade or in the rich soil of hilly woods. It is readily transplanted and will thrive if placed in a fairly moist, open situation, where it may develop symmetrically. MAIDENHAIR Adiantum pedatum L. Polypody Family [Plate VI] The genus Adiantum has about 200 species, nearly all delicate, graceful ferns with dark polished stalks and finely divided blades. Of these none is more beautiful than our own Maidenhair, which occurs rather commonly over most of North America north of Mexico. It grows best in the rich soil of slight hollows in moist hilly woods, sometimes reaching a height of two feet. Clumps set out about the house may multiply vigorously, but unless given deep peaty soil and the protection of ample shade, they will rarely match the beauty of the plant in its dim wild home. The young, uncoiling fronds are of a deep magenta-"about the color of new-born mice," as a recent writer expresses it-but the stalks rather quickly assume a polished purple-brown appearance. The name "maidenhair" itself doubtless re flects the fancied resemblance of the fine lus trous stalks of the Southern Maidenhair (see above) to women's tresses, and the custom that long prevailed in southern Europe of washing the hair in a decoction of this fern, which is called also Venus'-hair. BRACKEN Pteridium latiusculum (Desv.) Hieron. Polypody Family [Plate VII] The Bracken, usually known as Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn, is one of the most cos mopolitan of ferns, extending in one form or another over most of the world. In the Northeastern States it is often known as Hog-brake, because its wide-creeping, starchy rootstocks are eagerly grubbed out by swine as food. The farmer sometimes takes advantage of this by fencing hogs within an area support ing a luxuriant growth of the fern. The hogs. by rooting out the deep-seated rootstocks, not only render the hitherto worthless land fit for cultivation, but support themselves into the bargain. The Bracken-using the name in its wider sense-finds many uses. The fronds serve as thatch, stable bedding for animals, packing ma terial, and, when young, for food, either cooked or in a raw condition. From the inner parts of the rootstock starch has been manufactured, and the roasted rootstock also is eaten; the outer parts are used by Indians in basket-making.