Phyllitis scolopendrium, Scolopendrium officinarum/ale and Scolopendrium vulgare



Common name/s ?

Burnt weed, buttonhole, Christ's hair, deer-tongue, hart's tongue fern, hind's tongue, horse tongue and scollies.

Skill rating



Native to Europe, northwest Africa and as far east as Iran, Korea, Japan and southeastern Russia.

Type of plant ?

Evergreen, herbaceous perennial fern.

Hardiness zone ?

RHS zone


EGF zone


USDA zone


Eventual size

Reaches up to 60cm height and spread.

Growth rate ?

Moderate, it will take between 5 and 10 years to reach its full height.

Shape it grows into

Fronds grow from a central base and remain upright.

Season/s of interest

All year round.

Where to grow it

Happy in part or full shade.
Happy with any soil moisture levels.

If planting in dry shade water and mulch well, particularly within its first season. It is happy in alkaline or neutral soil, but is unlikely to tolerate very acidic soils.

Asplenium scolopendrium


The rich green leaves erupt from the base of the plant and are wide, solid fronds with undulating margins. On the underside of the leaves spores are attached in lines across the leaf.

What to use it for

Ideal for many shady garden locations. Works well as ground cover and underplanting in drifts under roses, shrubs and trees.

Useful plant for alkaline soils.

How to look after it

Mulch it well every spring. Requires little other attention.

How to prune it

Remove dead or damaged fronds to the base.

How to propagate it

Sow spores in mid to late summer or divide in spring.

Common problems

Can be affected by rust in mild, damp winters.

Other useful information

Has achieved the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

The plant’s name is of Greek origin. Asplenium derives from ’splen’, the Greek for spleen, alluding to the view of herbalist Dioscorides that it was an effective treatment for spleen diseases. Scolopendrium comes from the Greek for centipede or millipede, which the spores on the reverse of the fronds can be said to resemble.