Theo-phrastus and other ancient writers mention two kinds of fern, the male and female; whether or not this was the fern referred to as the male, it retains the name in common as well as in botanical nomenclature. There are something over a dozen aspidiums or shield ferns found in this country, some of which are very common, while a few, ineludimr the male tern, are exceedingly rare; this, while one of the common ferns of Europe, has thus far been found here onlv at Lake Superior, it has a large scaly root stock, from which arise the handsome fronds in a circular tuft, 2 to 3 ft. high and of the outline shown in the engraving • its elegant appearance makes it a desirable plant for the outdoor fernery, but its chief interest lies in the use that has boon made of the root stock in medicine. It was known to the ancients as an anthelmintic, but attention was called to it anew by the widow of a Swiss surgeon, Mine, Nouffer, who had such great success in expelling tapeworms that Louis XIV. paid her 18,000 francs for her secret; it was found that her principal remedy was the root of the male fern, which was aided by powerful purges.
The root stocks are collected when 3 to 6 in. long and dried, in which state they are kept in the shops; the male fern roots, as they are called, contain about 10 per cent, of oily and resinous matters, upon which their worm-destroying properties depend; the oil of male fern is an ethereal extract, and contains Mich constituents of the roots as are soluble in that menstruum. Like other agents for the destruction of tapeworms, it has had a varying reputation, some attributing its efficacy solely to the active cathartics used with it: on the other hand, it is asserted that while it is effective against the unarmed tapeworm, common among the Swiss, it has much less or very little effect upon the armed tapeworm, the one most common in this country. The medicine appears to act as a poison upon the worm, which is then easily expelled. The dose of the powdered root is two or three drams, or of the oil half a dram, followed by castor oil.