Mountain Spleenwort

By William T. Hathaway

Mountain Spleenwort (Asplenium montanum)

This Mountain Spleenwort Fern (Asplenium montanum) was photographed along the Pigg River a short distance upstream from the Stanhope Hurt Bridge on VA 40. Since this picture was taken in 1972, the riverside path has been washed away by the meandering carvings of the Pigg River. The relatively short stretch of rocky cliffs, capped with hemlocks and table mountain pines, now stands in clear view without the former alluvial woodlands at the base.

This small cliff-dwelling fern is nourished by the accumulated soil within the cracks of the layered rock formation. Other specimens of this fern can be found in similar habitats throughout Pittsylvania County without scaling precipitous cliffs. Mountain spleenworts basically require rocky, north-facing exposures that are usually shaded by a wooded canopy.

Of the more than 32 local native fern species, this fern is familiar only to those hikers who venture beyond the beaten path.