Ferns are fascinating! They are an ancient family of plants with a prominent place in folklore—especially on St. John’s Eve (June 23) and St. John’s Day (June 24).
Long ago, people couldn’t explain how ferns reproduced since they lack flowers or seeds. (Today we know that ferns reproduce from spores.)
It was this mystery of the non-flowering fern that led to folklore about mystical flowers as seeds.
Here is some of the folklore that I have have found—and thought that you would enjoy …
Midsummer Eve Lore
- During the Middle Ages, ferns were thought to flower and produce seed only once a year—at midnight on St. John’s Eve (June 23) prior Midsummer;s Day.
- Since the seeds couldn’t be seen, they were believed to be invisible. Many attempts were made to collect them on St. John’s Eve because they allowed people to become invisible, see into the future, and have eternal youth.
- This folklore is intertwined with Midsummer Day (June 24); bathing in the dew on this morning was said to bring youthful glow, healing, and youthfulness.
- It was also believed that ferns DID flower—but only until the birth of Christ. When all the flowers bloomed in His honor and the fern did not, it was condemned to remain flowerless forever.
Ferns for HealingPeople throughout the world frequently use ferns as medicines for various ailments, especially ancient tribes.
The spores on the underside of the fern provide relief to the stinging nettle (which is often nearby).
When boiled in oil or fat, Ophioglossum vulgatum has been used for wounds and to reduce inflammation.
A poultice or lotion made from the roots of Botrychium. virginianum has been applied to snakebites, bruises, cuts and sores in the Himalayas.
The powdered rhizomes of Adiantum lunulatum has been used as an antidote to snakebite in India.
Extract of fresh leaves of Nephrolepis cordifolia has been used to stop bleeding of cuts and help in blood coagulation.
The paste of the leaf of O. reticulatum has been applied to the forehead to get rid of headache.
Filtered water extract of rhizome of Abacopteris multilineata has been used for stomach pains.
Fern SymbolismThe ancient fern has a history rich in symbolism. As mentioned above, ferns were seen as good luck, often for new lovers. The fern symbolizes eternal youth.
To the indigenous Maori of New Zealand, the fern represented new life and new beginnings.
To the Japanese, the fern symbolizes family and the hope for future generations.
According to Victorians, the fern symbolized humility and sincerity. Click to see the meaning of plants and flowers.
Starting in June, my woods and lowlands in New Hampshire fills ferns. (Ferns require liquid water to reproduce, which is why you’ll often find them near streams and moist, forested areas.)
They sprout from wet soil in late April and the young fiddleheads appear bright green against the decaying leaves.