Asplenium australasicum (ASPLENIACEAE) Bird’s Nest Fern, Crow’s Nest Fern

Plants to Plant

Asplenium australasicum is a fern in wet forests and rainforests of south and central coasts of New South Wales and coastal Queensland to Cape York and Asia. It grows on trees (epiphytic) or rocks (lithophytic) and occasionally in the soil. Large, elliptical-shaped, leathery fronds rise from a central stem to form a deep, saucer shape. The diameter of the spreading fronds can reach 3 m, smaller in northern places. Fronds unroll and have a very prominent dark midrib and undulating margins. Spores on the underside of the fronds in parallel rows. A hardy and popular fern in cultivation, likes plenty of moisture, good drainage and plenty of organic material. Can withstand plenty of sun, likes some shade. Propagate from spores or by division. There are about 700 Asplenium species worldwide. Around 30 are native to Australia. Asplenium from Greek referring to medicinal properties affecting the spleen.

 At Junction of Fish and Enoggera Creek, Walton Bridge Reserve. Photo: Robert Whyte 


Asplenium australasicum may be confused with A. nidus which is found in North Queensland. Like most attractive, large ferns, has suffered from being poached from rainforests for garden use. If conditions prove unfavourable temporarily recovers quickly with the assistance of rain even though the leaves may look wilted, brown and beyond repair. The nest-shaped radiating fronds creates rainforest litter which rots and forms a growing medium for the root system. The root system is small, considering the size of the fern, but it is dense and spongy and is covered with persistent brown root hairs.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Crow’s Nest In Barrow

One particular Sunday in April 2004 we were invited to relocate two of these magnificent Crows Nest Ferns Asplenium australasicum. We gently removed them from May Grimes’s garden and loaded them in barrows with some lillies.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Rolling Down Waterworks Road

Rob, Nick and Crows Nest ferns rolling carefully down Waterworks Road. It happened to be Anzac Day. Ours was a most unusual Anzac Day march. Rob is wearing his fine, lairy shorts and sock protectors.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Successful Planting

The task is completed. Anne, Rob and Nick pose for the camera. The spot may well turn out to be too shady because of the revegetation work adding canopy in that area. Oh well, we can always move them again.

Anne Jones, Robert Whyte and Nick Houghton