Walking Fern

By William T. Hathaway

Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum)

For those of us who are caught-up in nature lore, the walking fern takes the cake. After all, who can stare at the small evergreen plant and not feel a sense of amazement: this little fern is capable of spreading its evergreen leaves with long attenuated tips that take root and produce new plantlets.

Up-to-date botanists prefer the generic name “Asplenium” to the old generic “Camptosorus.” Its specific name “rhizophyllum” refers to the rooting leaf.

The walking leaf species is found mostly in shady areas on moist, mossy boulders and rock crevices often associated with limestone outcrops. Through the years I have come across several Walking Leaf sites within Pittsylvania County, but I'll never forget my first discovery of this fern at Moses' Mill near Chatham in 1941.