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What is Athyrium?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 17, 2024
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Athyrium is a fern genus that includes over 180 terrestrial ferns. These types of ferns can be found all over the world, and many of them are grown as ornamental garden and house plants. Some species also serve as food plants for a number of insects and other living creatures.

These type of plants evolve from a basal rootstock and grow in clumps of fronds. An Athyrium frond is a long arching leaf that is made up of numerous small leaflets known as pinnae. The pinnae are generally longer at the base of the frond and smaller towards the tip, giving the frond a tapering appearance. In some fern species, like lady-fern, the pinnae have smaller sub-sections known as pinnules. Each pinna has a sorus, or cluster, on its underside and each sorus contains many fern spores.

The color of the Athyrium stem and fronds can vary depending on the species. Some ferns have the usual pale green stems and light green or dark green fronds, while others are more colorful, having red or brown stems and yellow or silvery fronds. Still other fern plants may have color stripes or patterns on the pinnae.

Ferns are propagated by the spores or by division of the fern clumps. The spores can be easily collected by placing a paper under the spore-bearing pinnae, but will need to be germinated on a growing medium like moss or peat. The medium should be covered with glass and kept moist until the germinating spores have developed into tiny fern plants. These plants can then be transplanted to the area or container in which they are to be grown. Propagation by clump division is much easier and quicker as the clumps only need to be separated from the main plant and replanted.

It is best to plant Athyrium ferns in an area of full or partial shade as these types of plants do not do well in direct sunlight; they also cannot grow in cold, frosty conditions and, in areas that receive snowfall, the ferns should be taken in or stored in a warm place in the winter. As they have a high water requirement, it is necessary to water them frequently and ensure that the soil remains moist; better yet, they can be planted in a damp corner of the garden or near a pond or a stream. Adding fertilizer to the soil once or twice a month will help these perennial plants thrive.

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