Spider Brake - Wall Brake - Huguenot Fern
Pteris multifida - Poiret ex Lamarck
Pteridaceae (Maiden Hair Fern) Family

Spider Brake is an introduced evergreen fern. It is thought to be native to Asia, but is now found in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. In Alabama, it can be found in the southern 2/3’s of the state. Its preferred habitat is on brick walls of older buildings, in masonry around cemeteries, and on limestone or marl creek banks (soil made up primarily of sediments). It is a perennial with a short creeping rhizome. The rhizome is covered in reddish-brown scales.

The fronds (leaves) are clustered towards the apex of the rhizome; varying in 2 to 15 inches in length. The petiole (stalk) is scaly towards the base and smooth above. The blade is oblong to oblanceolate in outline and divided into lanceolate or linear leaflets. The rachis (the continuation of the petiole between the leaflets) is winged. The margins of the leaflets are serrate or entire (no teeth, no lobes).

The plant reproduces by forming spores. The spores are in sporangia located along the margins of the leaflets and are covered by the curved margin of the leaflet (a false indusium).

Spider Brake is often cultivated and is available from many nurseries. It prefers an alkaline soil and can survive drier conditions than many ferns. Brake is a Middle English word for “fern”. This species name, Huguenot Fern, was given as it was originally collected from a Huguenot cemetery in Charleston South Carolina in 1868, and it was falsely believed to have been brought to this country by them during the time the Huguenots were migrating to North America in search of religious freedom.

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