Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Maidenhair fern in Iceland?

Posted on by royvickery |

2014-08-16 12.24.57In most recent edition of his Food for Free (for review see News, 24 June 2012), Richard Mabey mentions one fern – maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris):
‘… it formed the basis of capillaire, which was a popular flavouring in the late nineteenth century. The fern (imported from Iceland) was simmered in water for several hours, and the liquid made into a thick syrup with sugar and orange-water. Capillaire was mixed with fruit juice and water to form soft drinks.’
Was maidenhair fern really imported from Iceland?
As Icelandic floras, ranging from W. Lauder Lindsay’s Flora of Iceland (1861) to Hördur Kristinsson’s Guide to the Flowering Plants & Ferns of Iceland (ed.3, 2010), make no mention of maidenhair, it can only be concluded that it is extremely unlikely that it ever was.

Comment
Adiantum has never been part of the Icelandic flora, but has been cultivated to some extent in gardens [Trausti Baldursson, Icelandic Institute of Natural History, 13 August 2012].

Image: cultivated, Palacio de Viana, Córdoba, Andalucia, Spain; August 2014.

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