Abstract Although there are several species of ferns that are important components of many coastal ecosystems, the adaptations that allow these species to live in salty conditions have been studied only in two Acrostichum species. We have studied the effects of salt on germination, development of the gametophyte and sexual expression of the fern Asplenium marinum, which lives on coastal cliffs of Europe. Cultures at four different levels of salt concentration, 0%, 0.98%, 1.96% and 3.26%, were established for this purpose. Salt caused a significant delay in spore germination, and prevented it completely at high concentrations (3.26%). However, spores were able to recover germination ability after a period of seawater incubation once salinity concentrations decreased. Variable salinity conditions are a typical feature of sea cliffs where halophytes can grow. A salty culture medium also affects the development of the prothalli. Higher salinity of the substrate produced a significant decrease in gametophyte sizes, and affected the development of gametangia as well. Only males were found in a 0.98%-salt medium, and no gametangia were observed in cultures at 1.96%-salt medium. Recovered spores after one and a half month in high salinity concentration, 3.26%, were able, when transplanted to 0%-salt medium, to develop normal sexual prothalli, and this occurred in a shorter time than spores without any prior treatment. A. marinum can be considered as a halophyte fern that is able to germinate and grow in salty conditions. But it takes advantage of rainy periods that cause decrease of salt concentration, which seems to be important in particular for gametangia development and fertilization.