Pellaea calomelanos is an attractive fern that is widespread in the summer-rainfall areas of South Africa and it is the most common fern in Gauteng.
It grows in grasslands, between and against rocks in almost soil less conditions, in the blazing sun on bare hillsides, as well as in cool shady areas.
The hardy fern is very leathery in texture and has rigid, blue-green fronds up to 350 mm long. It has a short, creeping underground root stock that is covered with small brown scales.
It is a special multi-purpose medicinal plant which is a must if you plan an authentic indigenous grassland or savanna garden.
It is difficult to cultivate. Never remove established plants from the wild as they are difficult to transplant. When you find one in a nursery in a bag, buy it and treasure it.
The leaves are smoked (or smoke from burning leaves is inhaled) to relieve coughs, head colds, chest colds and asthma. Alternatively a tea is made by steeping a 1/4 cup fresh leaves in a cup of boiling of boiling water for 5 minutes. This is often sweetened with a bit of honey.
Decoctions made from the rhizomes are traditionally used to treat boils and abscesses, and for intestinal parasites.
According to Margaret Roberts a small frond boiled up in milk (1 thumb length piece to a cup of milk) and sweetened with honey is also as a calming bedtime drink or to soothe a frightened or upset child.
She also uses Pellaea calomelanos in the bath to soften the skin. Tie 2 or 3 fresh fronds in a piece of muslin, toss this under the running hot water and then use the bag as a wash ball. She often adds a handful of oats to the bag to really cleanse the skin. She says you can rub soap over the ball as well and use it as a skin-softening and cleansing scrub.