Delicate, shiny dark stem, palmate leaf whorl of five, frilly leaflets that are water repellant.  

Maidenhair fern (courtesy Robert H. Mohlenbrock)

What a spiffy little fern! Maidenhair fern species live in tropical, sub-tropical, and many temperate zones. This includes Asia, Andes Mountains of South America, Pacific coast, and eastern North American forests.

More recently, you may also find this little fern in an office setting. This feat of careful devotion is almost painstaking for this moisture loving plant. Growing tips follow!


Like many ferns, Maidenhair require a relatively protected environment with constant moisture, moderate temperatures, and organically-rich and slightly acidic soils. Good drainage is imperative.

Good light is not. This plant grows well in partial to full shady places. Depending on the environment, direct sunlight will zap the plant quickly. Take note of where this plant occurs in nature (think steep, shady, and moist ravine bottoms) and try to mimic those conditions.  

Medicine, Food, and More

China has 30 species of Maidenhair ferns. Five of these are used in traditional Chinese medicines. The species found on the Pacific coast and eastern American forests, Adiantum pedatum, also has a long and varied use history with native Americans as well.

Medical uses around the world for this plant has included bronchitis, whooping cough, chronic infections, hepatitis, snakebites, rheumatism, asthma, coughing, fevers, burns, and scalds. North Americans would chew the fronds and then apply them to wounds to stop bleeding.   

Non-medical uses included: hair wash, conditioner, tonic, and growth extract. Stems were used in basketmaking.

The plant is edible. Fresh fronds have been used as garnish. Dried fronds have been used in a tea and in a refreshing fruit juice drink.

Maidenhair ferns are nontoxic.  
A number of ferns contain carcinogens. Some caution
when consuming any unusual plant is always advisable.


In some locales this clumping plant could be a wonderful landscape addition. Not only does it add great texture but in the right growing conditions can be fairly care-free.

The plant is great in a number of gardens such as woodland, fern, rock, and native. It may also be a delightful border option.  

Cleanup is minimal for well-grown plants. Just pick off the old dried fronds. It is also disease and pest free, and can be easily propagated.  


If you want to grow this in your office, consider using chemical (like chlorine, salt, and other water conditioners) free water that is tepid. Use a water mister several times a day, and make sure there is excellent drainage out of the pot. Use a water catchment tray with stones (to elevate the pot out of the water) is also a good bet.

Normally the plant would thrive in an organic-rich environment. In the office, it will need supplemental fertilizer on a regular basis.

–Smart Garden Guide (
–Wikipedia, Maidenhair fern (
–Natural Medicinal Herbs (
–Philippine Medical Plants (
–Missouri Botanical Gardens, Plant Finder (

Photo: Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento.

Gorse Photo by K. Collier

Is it possible to say something good about Gorse?

Maybe. Depends on if you have ever tried to get rid of it or not.

Some consider Gorse as a pretty, fragrant shrub. Others class it as something akin to devil spawn.

Gorse maintains a love-hate reputation not only with humans but other plants. In both cases, it has earned this reputation well.

Is anything good?

Gorse was commonly used in several ways including as a:
–Food source (the flowers are edible). Plant can be used as livestock feed as it is high in protein. Pollen from the various varies help pollinators, such as bees.
–Product creation such as soap making, yellow dye, cleaning tools
–Traditional Medicines (listed as one of 38 plants in the Bach’s Flower Remedies.

Lots o’ Bad

Gorse has earned a dubious reputation in several ways and is now on several invasive and noxious lists for States and countries. Bandon is no stranger to this plant that arrived over 100 years ago thanks to ‘Lord’ George Bennett, an Irish immigrant. In Ireland, the plant had many uses and natural biological controls generally not present here.

Bandon is ‘ground zero’ for gorse removal and fire risk reduction. The rumor is that gorse helped fuel the Bandon Fire of 1936 that burned down most of the town. A Gorse Action Group in Bandon is working on the problem (see What’s the Deal with Gorse? ( Then again, dried gorse was used as kindling and a fire fuel for bread making ovens.

More Hate than Love

There is a lot more hate than love now-a-days, and fortunately controls that can help manage this noxious weed. Here is a quick comparison:

A Small Gorse Spider Mite Experiment

Mites control gorse through extensive feeding pressure. The mites will through feeding kill shoots, reduce plant growth and overall plant biomass, and abort the production of flowers. It can take a long time for these mites to control the gorse. What if we could help this along?

This is our little experiment:
Year 1: We took a few, small cuttings from mite-infected plants and threw them on some bushes. Result: Mite spread slow but evident, and did not persist on some bushes.
Year 2: We took larger cuttings off of several bushes that exhibited mite infestation. Placed several 6-inch sprigs on approximately 12 other bushes with light or relatively no infestation. Result: All bushes infected; most showed some stress.
Year 3: Mechanical removal employed on several large, bushes. Result? Can’t wait to plant the area. More mechanical and hand removal is in progress. It will be interesting to look back next year and see the results. I think I also spotted a Gorse soft shoot moth on my shovel handle. There is hope.  

–Wikipedia, Ulex (
–Tasty Natives, Ulex europaeus (
6 organic ways to get rid of gorse ( (Note: link does say 5 rather than 6 as in title, error in link naming)
What are the effects of gorse on the ecosystem? (
–University of Washington, 66-8633 Gorse Soil Effects (
Victorian Gorse Taskforce (

And I’d like to give my love to everybody, and
let them know that the grass may look greener on the other side,
but believe me, it’s just as hard to cut.

Little Richard
Beachgrass in the sunset, royalty free, Unsplash

As environmental mis-steps go, planting European Beachgrass at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, in the late 1800s probably seemed like a great idea. This grass successfully stabilized dunes in Europe and North Africa and many agencies planted thousands of acres, much of it in Oregon.

It seemed like such a good idea

European Beachgrass forms stiff, hardy clumps of grass that can reach nearly four feet tall. A strong rhizome mat holds clumps erect and facilitate fast colonization across an area. One small clump can produce 100 new shoots annually.

This plant provided a faster way to stabilize sand dunes, had few pests and predators, and grows very densely. The grass changes the shape of a dune and overall native ecology by displacing plants and animals by creating higher, steeper curve on the ocean side of a dune. This decreases sand flow to interior dunes impacting the long-term development of the whole coastal ecosystem.

Beachgrass on dune, royalty free Unsplash

One tough grass

Not only does European Beachgrass grow fast and dense, but it will tolerate a number of adverse conditions. For instance, the plant will survive for extended periods of time when buried by sea water and/or sand. In such a disturbance, rhizome pieces will break off. These pieces begin growing in new sites.

It will also grow in a variety of conditions both in pH, mineral or chemical issues, temperatures, and as a perennial live many years. A fungus that grows on the grass, may also make dunes less fertile and thus less likely to support other plants.

The impact?

Beachgrass is one of the most pervasive exotic plant species threatening the West Coast. It is everywhere and not only creating problems for plants but animals such as the endangered western snowy plover by increasing predator cover.

This noxious weed grows from California north along the Pacific coast into British Columbia. This grass was also planted in New Zealand and Western Australia and is considered noxious.

Is it controllable?

Maybe. Interest in controlling began about 1980. Finding a method that is effective, inexpensive, minimally invasive to other native species, flexible enough to use on steep slopes, and acceptable to a wide variety of land owner/managers is a tough challenge.   

Several research projects have been underway for years looking at various removal techniques such as manual, mechanical, chemical, and fire alternatives. Other methods are still being sought.

–US Dept. of Agriculture (
–California Invasive Plant Council (,, and
–Wikipedia, Ammophila Arenaria (
–AZ Quotes (