Ferns comprise a huge group of about 20,000 species of plants classified as Pteridophyta or Filicophyta. In the UK Ferns are associated with woodland areas especially in shade but ferns are very adaptable and grow in a wide variety of habitats including mountain areas and outside of the UK in some arid areas although the majority of ferns grow in shady woodlands or sheltered rock outcrops and swamps. Many species are a serious weed problem such as the British Bracken which will be covered elsewhere on this site. They are an ancient plant species and can be found in many fossil records.
Ferns do have some European myths attached to them; in Eastern Europe Ferns are believed to flower on only one night in the year and if you can find a fern flower on that night you will become wealthy. In Finland a legend states that if you find the seed of a fern in bloom on midsummer’s night you will gain the power of invisibility and be guided to a cache of treasure.
What Culpepper Says
Description. Of this there are two kinds principally to be treated of, viz. the male and female. The female groweth higher than the male, but the leaves thereof are lesser and more divided and dented, and of as strong a smell as the male: the virtues of them are both alike, and therefore I shall not trouble you with any description or distinction of them.
Place. They grow both on heaths, and in shady places near the hedge-sides in all counties of this land.
Time. They flower and give their seed at midsummer.
The female fern is that plant which is in Sussex, called brakes, the seed of which some authors hold to be so rare. Such a thing there is I know, and may be easily had upon midsummer eve, and for ought I know, two or three days after it, if not more.Government and virtues. It is under the dominion of Mercury, both male and female. The roots of both these sorts of fern being bruised and boiled in mead, or honeyed water, and drank, killeth both the broad and long worms in the body, and abateth the swelling and hardness of the spleen. The green leaves eaten, purge the belly and choleric and waterish humours that trouble the stomach. They are dangerous for women with child to meddle with, by reason they cause abortions. The roots bruised and boiled in oil, or hog's grease, make a very profitable ointment to heal wounds or pricks gotten in the flesh. The powder of them used in foul ulcers, drieth up their malignant moisture, and causeth their speedier healing. Fern being burned, the smoke thereof driveth away serpents, gnats, and other noisome creatures, which in fenny countries do, in the night time, trouble and molest people lying in their beds with their faces uncovered; it causeth barrenness.