The Lady Fern is commonly split into two species, A.
angustum (Narrow Lady Fern) and A. asplenioides (Southern
Lady Fern). The Southern Lady Fern has a broader frond, especially
at the base. In both species the fronds arise from a central
point as a clump rather than along a rhizome. The plant features
lacy-cut, erect or ascending, 2 to 3 leaflet that may be finely
divided, but not all the way down to the central axis. The leaflets
are lance-like; light green in color that present in a dense
circular shuttlecock-like clump.
Each frond has 20 to 30 pairs of elliptic leaflets that
are arranged in an alternate fashion along the stem with narrow
pointed tips. Each leaflet is divided into deeply-cut lance-like
to oblong sub-leaflets. Spores and the mucus-like coating are
found on the undersides of the leaflets. The deciduous fronds
are light yellow-green, up to 35 inches long and about 10 inches
Spores appear as dots on the underside of the frond, 1
to 6 per leaflet and covered by a prominently whitish to brown
reniform (kidney-shaped) membrane. Fronds are very dissected,
being 3-pinnate. The stem may bear long, pale brown, papery scales
at the base. The spores are yellow to dark brown.
This is a circumglobal species which is found in rich moist
woods, thickets, fields, meadows and ravines throughout North
America, Europe and Asia.
The genus name comes from Greek athyros meaning
doorless in reference to the slowly opening hinged spore covers.
The specific epithet comes from Latin filix meaning fern
and femina meaning woman as confirmed by the common name
of lady fern.