The scientific name for the heart leaf fern is Hemionitis arifolia and is commonly referred to by a number of names, including tongue fern. First identified in 1859, heart leaf ferns are native to Southeast Asia.
Hemionitis arifolia is a delicate dwarf fern, which is also an epiphyte, meaning it grows upon trees as well. This fern presents itself with dark green heart-shaped fronds, about 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm.) long and borne on black stems, and reaches a height of between 6-8 inches (15-20 cm.) tall. Leaves are dimorphic, meaning some are sterile and some are fertile. The sterile fronds are heart shaped upon a 2- to 4-inch (5-10 cm.) thick stalk, while the fertile fronds are shaped like an arrowhead on a thicker stalk. The fronds are not the stereotypical fern leaves. Heart fern’s foliage is thick, leathery, and slightly waxy. Like other ferns, it does not flower but reproduces from spores in the spring.