Adiantum capillus-veneris grows from 6 to 12 in (15 to 30 cm) in height; its fronds arising in clusters from creeping rhizomes 8 to 27.5 in (20 to 70 cm) tall, with very delicate, light green fronds much subdivided into pinnae 0.2 to 0.4 in (5 to 10 mm) long and broad; the frond rachis is black and wiry
Adiantum capillus-veneris is native to the southern half of the United States from California to the Atlantic coast, through Mexico and Central America, to South America. It is also native to Eurasia, the Levant in Western Asia, and Australasia. There are two disjunct occurrences in the northern part of North America: at Cascade Springs in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia. In both instances, the warm microclimate created by hot mineral springs permits the growth of the plant far north of its normal range. It is similar in Zvonce spa resort (Звоначка Бања, Zvonačka Banja), near Pirot in Serbia, where hot mineral springs provide adequate heat and humidity for the survival of this species.
It is found in temperate climates from warm-temperate to tropical, where the moisture content is high but not saturating, in the moist, well-drained sand, loam or limestone of many habitats, including rainforests, shrub and woodlands, broadleaf and coniferous forests, and desert cliff seeps, and springs. It often may be seen growing on moist, sheltered and shaded sandstone or limestone formations, generally south-facing in the southern hemisphere, north-facing in the north, or in gorges. It occurs throughout Africa in moist places by streams On moist sandstone cliffs it grows in full or partial shade, even when unprotected.