Ferns are often thought to symbolize invisibility, precognition, wealth, and love due to their ancient origins and unique reproductive process.
Many myths and mysteries surround the Fern, whose name originated from the Anglo-Saxon term “fearn”, meaning feather, due to the shape and pattern of its leaves.
Remember that symbolism is subjective. The below are examples of possible interpretations only, and may not be the correct interpretations for you and your situation.
Fern Symbolism in Myths and Folklore
With its long history and mystical beginnings, it is not surprising that there are many stories about the Fern in many written works and folklore share by different cultures over the years.
Because of its unusual structure of not having a seed, many stories floated about in the old times about this mystery.
Theories ranged from a flower that rarely makes an appearance to the plant having magical powers, and of the seed being actually invisible.
A popular theme from the 1700s was the belief that the Fern has the power to turn anyone invisible, owing to its missing seed.
Because the early scientists could not find any trace of its seed and have not yet figured out how the plant actually reproduced, there came about a legend that the plant’s seeds were actually invisible.
This legend became so pervasive that it was mentioned in some of the most popular plays and literature of the time,, including:
- The play “Henry IV” by William Shakespeare
- The fairy tale “The Traveling Companion” by Hans Christian Andersen
- The comedy “The Light Heart” by writer Ben Johnson
2. Vision and Eyesight
Folk tales in other cultures tell of how the leaves of the Fern have the ability to restore sight, or how the seed can make one be able to see the future.
In Scotland, there was a record of a medicinal procedure from the 1700s claiming that the leaves of the fern mixed with egg whites can cure reddened eyes or short-term blindness by applying the mixture on the patient’s face and brows.
Meanwhile, in 19th century England, a fairy tale called “The Shepherd’s Daughter” mentioned how the seeds of the Fern plant were able to cure the eyes of mer-babies.
A Russian fern story tells of a farmer who suddenly received visions of hidden treasures after coincidentally getting the seed inserted on his shoe.
3. Good Fortune
Since no one has ever seen the seeds of the Fern plant, there also sprouted many stories about the mystical process of harvesting the seeds.
In Baltic mythology, there used to be tales claiming that the flower of the Fern plant would only bloom once in a year at midnight, either on St. John’s Eve or during the summer solstice.
And whoever manages to seize this rare flower or the seed inside it would instantly gain riches beyond compare.
During the Middle Ages, an old tale in England spoke of the mysterious blue fern flower.
It was said that the flower will only appear at midnight on a stack 12 pewter plates, and inside was the miraculous golden seed of the Fern.
Some versions spoke instead of a red flower that blossomed so brightly it can even light up a whole forest.
It was also said that the plant would only grow on burial grounds where treasures can be found. However, these places would allegedly be guarded by trolls who make sure that the treasures do not get stolen.
4. It Provides Light and Protection
For the Maoris of New Zealand, the ferns symbolize strength and endurance, as well as light and guidance.
The silver fern, in particular, has been recognized as the national plant since the 1800s, with the image of the leaves commonly used in sports and in their military.
The silver fern is an important symbol of Maori culture that now widely represents the country of New Zealand.
The plants would also serve as natural road lamps at night as the shiny underside of the leaves give off a warm glow due to the reflection of light from the moon and stars.
Other folklore circulating about ferns includes stories that fern leaves can ward off evil spirits and confuse dark magic, how the plant has the ability to bestow eternal youth, and how fern leaves have the power to end drought and bring the rain.
Some stories are as simple as the plant being able to prevent toothache for a whole year, just by biting into the first branch sprouts in Spring.
Luckily, times have changed and we now have access to modern dentistry, rendering the freshly-grown fern method of preventing toothache unnecessary.
5. A Symbol of Love and Growth
Ferns often symbolize confidence, love, and security because of their lush leaves, bouncy stems, and the ability to exist throughout history.
The Maidenhair Fern, in particular, was also believed to represent the love bond that ties two lovers together.
Boston Ferns, on the other hand, were believed to indicate happiness, mainly because of their lively appearance.
Some people also prefer to tattoo an image of the fern on their body as a symbol of their pride and determination, and as a reminder to keep moving forward and leave their past behind.
About the Fern
The Fern is quite an old plant, dating as far back as 400 million years based on fossils that have been uncovered so far.
Originally a water plant, ferns have evolved over time, until they became the variation that we now see on land, though some have retained their prehistoric appearance.
There are over 40,000 species of ferns scattered all over the world, and they are quite a popular plant of choice for indoor home decorations and outdoor landscaping.
Ferns can often be found in damp locations, whether in temperate or tropical climates, as they can survive quite well on either soil or rocks.
A few fern species, such as the Ostrich fern, are being used as food or medicine in certain cultures.
But as a whole, the main use of ferns is for scientific research as these are often used in the study and teaching of genetics due to their unique reproductive process.
Compared to other plants that grow from seeds, ferns instead go through a sexual reproduction from spores that grow from the underside of their leaves once they reach maturity.
The plant carries both male and female cells, thus it had the ability to fertilize and reproduce by itself.
How to Interpret Spiritual Symbolism
Interpreting symbolism and spiritual meanings is subjective and deeply personal. The symbolic meanings listed in this article are examples of potential interpretations, but might not be true for your situation.
Make sure you meditate and journal about your vision. Reflect on what you saw and think about what message you think is relevant to you and your life right now.
This doesn’t mean choosing the message you want to hear, but the one you think you need to hear at this point in your life. Only you can decide which meaning is the right one for your situation.
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As expected of a plant that existed together with the dinosaurs – and outlived them, the Fern has had a long and mysterious journey throughout the ages.
However, in the end, it is up to an individual what meaning to take for themselves. The as the Fern is only there to remind you that while life is long, it is meant to be lived and appreciated.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.