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Publication #FPS54

Asplenium nidus Birds's Nest Fern1

Edward F. Gilman2


Eventually reaching about four feet tall and wide, bird's nest fern is a striking plant to use as a specimen planting, at entranceways, or in containers where it will always attract attention (Fig. 1). The large, stemless, apple-green leaves have a black, prominent midrib and unfurl from a tight center, giving a bird nest effect. The spores are borne in prominent brown sporophores on the underside of leaves.

Figure 1. 

Bird's nest fern

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Asplenium nidus
Pronunciation: ass-PLEE-nee-um NYE-dus
Common name(s): bird's nest frern
Family: Polypodiaceae
Plant type: herbaceous; perennial
USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: mass planting; foundation; border; ground cover; edging; suitable for growing indoors
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 2 to 4 feet
Spread: 2 to 4 feet
Plant habit: upright; round
Plant density: open
Growth rate: slow
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: lobed; undulate
Leaf shape: linear
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: more than 36 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: no flowers
Flower characteristic: no flowers


Fruit shape: no fruit
Fruit length: no fruit
Fruit cover: no fruit
Fruit color: no fruit
Fruit characteristic: no fruit

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable
Current year stem/twig color: not applicable
Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in the shade
Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; clay; sand; acidic; loam
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Growing in rich, moist soil, bird's nest fern prefers shady locations. Leaves turn yellow and the plant stops growing in the sun. Like many ferns, drought tolerance is minimal. It can also be copper-wired to tree trunks to grow on a fibrous slab. Plant on two to three-foot centers to create a mass planting.

There is a dwarf cultivar which grows to about two feet tall and wide. It is reportedly cold hardy into the lower part of USDA hardiness zone 8b.

Propagation is by spores or from tissue culture.

Pest and Diseases

Problems include foliar nematodes, scale, slugs, and snails.

No diseases are of major concern.



This document is FPS54, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.