Adiantum capillus-veneris

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻIwaʻiwa
  • ʻIwaʻiwa hāwai
  • ʻIwaʻiwa kahakaha

Hawaiian Names

  • Iwaiwa
  • Iwaiwa hawai
  • Iwaiwa kahakaha

Common Names

  • Black maidenhair
  • Common maidenhair
  • Maidenhair fern
  • Southern maidenhair
  • Venus' hair fern

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Fern/Fern-like, Medium, 1 to 3
  • Fern/Fern-like, Tall, Greater than 3

Mature Size, Width

ʻIwaʻiwa has a spread from 1 to 2 feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hanging Basket
  • Indoor

Additional Landscape Use Information

ʻIwaʻiwa can be used as a beautiful indoor plant in either a standard pot or a hanging basket with semi-shady to indirect sunlight locations and good moisture.

Even though this fern is found in many parts of the world, when purchasing a plant please inquire if it is the Hawaiian native ʻiwaʻiwa to help keep the gene pool local.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

There are some non-native cultivars of Adiantum capillus-verneris such as 'Fimbriatum,' and 'Mairisii' with various leaf forms. [2]

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information


leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Scale and mealybugs.

leaf Growth Requirements


Occasional organic fertilizers, once or twice a month, can be used as a foliar and/or drench.

Limestone (pH 8.0) may be added to enrich the soil and increase alkalinity.

Pruning Information

Cut off dead frond material for a clean appearance.

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

Plants under cultivation appear to struggle even among professional growers. Perhaps ground water is a contributing factor. A Reverse Osmosis (RO) system or using rain or purified water may correct this. Distilled water may be used on a limited basis as these tend to pull essential nutrients from soils.

Signs of salt build up may include a browning of the leaf tips, reduction of new growth, the aborting of lower leaves, dead root tips, wilting and overall lack of plant vigor.

Flushing or leaching the soil of accumulated salts may correct the problem. To do this, water a plant thorough and alow to sit for and few minutes to loosen build up. Follow this using high quantities of water several times. Toxic solids ("salts") should be flushed or leached from the soils. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun
  • Shade

Additional Lighting Information

Tolerates heavy shade.

Spacing Information



  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral


ʻIwaʻiwa (A. capillus-veneris) is not as easy to grow as are the naturalized species in Hawaiʻi. [Kay Lynch, Lāʻau Hawaiʻi]

Special Growing Needs

As previously mentioned, ʻiwaʻiwa has a rather high tolerance for alkaline soils. Additonal limestone should be added to acidic soils.

Requires constant moisture to thrive well.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

ʻIwaʻiwa is found in dry, mesic and/or wet environments from sea level to over 1400 feet in shaded areas, coastal seeps on rock emabnkments, rock faces and cliffs in the Hawaiian Islands. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

On Kauaʻi and Molokaʻi ʻiwaʻiwa can be found along the coast in sea caves.

This is an uncommon to rare fern in the Hawaiian Islands and increasingly becoming scarce. It known only from one natural location on Oʻahu. But, it is a common to rare maidenhair fern found worldwide.

In some parts of the U.S.A. such as Kentucky, it is threatened, and in North Carolina it is endangered. [4]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻIwaʻiwa (Adiantum capillus-veneris) is the only native maidenhair fern in the islands. There are, however, several other non-native species, including the more agressive Delta maidenhair (Adiantum raddianum), a naturalized species. But because the two species have different habitats, there probably not much competition between them.

Other maidenhair ferns found in Hawaiʻi are four naturalized species: Rough maidenhair (Adiantum hispidulum), Brittle maindenhair or ʻiwaʻiwa hāuli* (A. tenerum) [3], Delta maidenhair (A. raddianum), and an horticultural escapee, Adiantum 'Edwinii'.#


* hāuli means blackish or dark.

# The Adiantum cultivar 'Edwinii' is naturalized in Lānaʻi and West Maui. Adiantum 'Edwinii' is probably a cultivar of A. raddianum or possibly a hybrid or cultivar of A. concinnum, a native of southern Mexico to northern South America.


The generic name, adiantos, is from the Greek, unwetted, and ancient name alluding to the water-repellent fronds.

The specific name,capillus-veneris, comes from the Latin capillus, hair, and venereus, of Venus.

Hawaiian Name:

ʻIwaʻiwa hāwai. The word hāwai means "to purify water." [1]

ʻIwaʻiwa kahakaha means "striped ʻiwaʻiwa."

Background Information

ʻIwaʻiwa (A. capillus-veneris) can be distinguished from other Adiantum spp. in Hawaiʻi by the fan-shaped viened fronds and pinnule (section of the frond), and by the rectangular or bar-shaped sori (spore collection) on the underside of the frond tips.

Early Hawaiian Use

The shiny dark brown to purplish black stipes (petiole or stem of the frond) were used woven in lau hala mats and purses to create design. [5,10]

Early Uses Outside of the Hawaiian Islands:

Maidenhair fern has been used to some extent by diverse cultures around the world such as Brazil, China, Egypt, England, Haiti, India, Iraq, Lesotho, Mexico, Native Americans (Navajo, Skokomish, Cherokee, Iriquois), Peru, Spain, Turkey, U.S.A., and Venezuela. [6,7,8,9]

The ancient Greeks made tea from the this fern as an expectorant for coughs. European medieval herbalists used it for treating severe respiratory such as for pleurisy, but it was not very effective since the fern is not a potent herb for this medical use. [6,7,8]

The 18th-century herbalist K'Eogh stated: "It helps cure asthma, coughs, and shortness of breath. It is good against jaundice, diarrhea, spitting of blood and the biting of mad dogs. It also provokes urination and menstruation and breaks up stone in the bladder, spleen and kidneys." [7,9]

Modern Use

This fern is still used and prescribed by herbalists worldwide for treating coughs, bronchitis, reducing excess mucus, chronic nasal congestion, and to ease sore throats. [6]

Additional References

[1] [Accessed on 11/10/08]
[2] [Accessed on 11/10/08]

[3] "Hawaiian Dictionary" by Mary K. Pukui & Samuel H. Elbert, page 104.

[4] [Accessed on 5/05/10]

[5] "A Hiker's Guide to Trailside Plants in Hawaiʻi" by John B. Hall, page 199.

[6] [Accessed 5/05/10]

[7] "DK Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine" by Andrew Chevallier, page 160.

[8] "Raintree Nutrition Tropical Plant Database" [Accessed on 5/05/10]

[9] "Medicine at Your Feet: Healing Plants of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume 1" by David Bruce Leonard, pages 11-12.

[10] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 17.

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