National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Hard Fern

Hard Fern

Blechnum spicant, family Blechnaceae
all year

In Gaelic culture ferns were thought to have protective powers especially from witches. Several native species were previously used medicinally for a wide number of ailments including, lumbago, worms, coughs and skin disorders. It was also used as shampoo.

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), was important for bedding, green manure and a source of soda for the manufacture of glass and soap. The native Osmunda regalis, once used as a love charm, requires really moist conditions and today it can still be found throughout the western seaboard of Britain despite being plundered by Victorian collectors. Like many other ferns it is now protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The name Osmunda is said to be derived from the legend of Osmund, a Loch Fyne ferry man, who hid his family on an island covered with the tall foliage of this ornamental during a Viking raid. These two species being unsuitable for a small garden, ferns are represented by the architectural Blechum spicant.

Ferns are the plant badge of the Clan Chisholm who originated from the Scottish Borders and later established themselves in the highlands during the mid-1300's. They were strong supporters of the Jacobite cause but like so many clans, family members also fought on the government side, thus pitching father against son in some cases.

Hard Fern. Image credit:, Flickr. Public domain