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Monday, April 5, 2010

Ferns come a-creeping

EASY TO GROW: The flat area in the Bird’s Nest Fern’s rosette collects water and other organic matter
Mary Margaret

THE ‘wild’ creeps into our gardens day and night. A close inspection reveals plants rooting on sidewalks, walls, drains, roofs ... and other plants.A bit of water, some nutrients, a dust-like spore blown in on the wind and voila, a non-flowering fern has arrived.These plants are known as, along with fern allies, for example mosses, ptereridophytes. They reproduce from minute spores that are encased in sporangia (spore cases), generally on the back of fertile fronds or asexually from the rhizomes which inch along the growing medium. The 650 species or 5.4 percent of the world’s species occupy a multitude of niches from urban gardens to lowland forests, mountain tops, to water in the Malaysian landscape.
The fronds — lacy or stout, minute or dramatically large, shaped like swords or ladders —contribute texture, shape and colour to gardens of whatever size. One striking addition to any garden is the Bird’s Nest Fern (Aspleniumnidus), Paku Sarong Burung in Indonesian, which is aptly named because the rosette of long leaves that taper at both ends really does resemble a nest. In Malay it is called Paku Pandan due to the fronds similarity to pandan (screw pine) leaves. This common fern is found from
sea level to about 1,700 metres and is a favourite as a house plant in temperate regions. Spore sacs appear near the tip of the leaf and when mature, release the spores which float with the wind.
They can take root in unlikely places. A young Bird’s Nest Fern does not tolerate dryness, but tolerance increases with age. Otherwise it is easy to grow. A mixture of leaves and other organic matter can be used when the fern outgrows its pot. The flat area in its rosette collects water, leaves and other fallen organic matter — it
is an easy to grow plant which virtually takes care of itself
APTLY NAMED: The Bird’s Nest Fern has a rosette of long leaves that taper at both ends
resembling a nest.

Other wild ferns that fly into the garden also land on tree trunks and grow as epiphytes — non-parasitic plants which take moisture and nutrients from the air. The bright green lacy leathery leaflets of Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Davallia denticulata) race along the branches reaching the very edges of the tree via thick hairy black rhizomes like a thick forest. All that is needed to start a plant is a piece of this rhizome. This elegant fern graces not only gardens, but flower bouquets as florists
use them to add a touch of green. Not all ferns cling to trees or walls. The approximately 30 members of the Nephrolepsis genus are tropical and subtropical
species from Florida in the US, South and Central America, South Africa, Southeast Asia and the Oceanic and Pacific islands. They have pinnate (parts that are similar to feathers) fronds which are indented in a ladder-like manner. This dramatic and easily visible fern spreads rapidly by way of its rhizomes. When I look at the ferns that have come uninvited into my garden I say thank you to Mother Nature for her beauty and adaptability.

UNINVITED: With a bit of water, some nutrients, a dust-like spore blown in on the wind and voila, a non-flowering fern has arrived.

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