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I SHOT AND MOUNTED IT MYSELF!

As a lover of unusual plants, one of my favorite ferns is the staghorn (Platycerium).  We all know that ferns are supposed to be pretty, feathery things, but this fern has a very distinctive appearance.  The common name refers to the large grey-green fronds that sit out from the root ball like antlers.  These interesting fronds have different shapes and configurations in the different  species of Platycerium.

Staghorns generally grow on trees in the tropics of Malaysia, Australia, Madagascar, and the Philippines, and have two kinds of fronds, fertile and shield.  The fertile fronds bear the sori that produce spores for new plants, while the shield fronds cover the roots, protecting them from drying out and providing a “pot” for water and nutrients.  Fertile fronds may be long and pendulous or broad and upright, depending upon the species.  They are all showy.

The shield fronds attach to a host tree, rocky cliff, or, more commonly for the home owner, a hanging basket, their rounded green flattened forms turning brown with age, while new shields from any new “pups” appear as small green semi-circles overlapping the older brown shields.  Shield fronds will completely encase a hanging basket making it very difficult to repot when the time comes.  In their natural habitat, bird and insect excretion and plant debris fall into the cup or basket formed by the shields, becoming fertilizer for the plants.

Staghorn ferns can grow very large, but they can usually be divided periodically, giving you several smaller, more manageable plants.  In addition to growing them in a pot or hanging basket, Platycerium can be mounted on wood or wire frames, simulating their natural tree habitat.  Mounted ferns can be a little harder to deal with indoors in terms of watering, but they make spectacular wall art!

Provide bright indirect light to direct morning sun and allow the soil to dry moderately between thorough waterings.  Make sure you have good drainage to avoid root rot.  Staghorns will suffer in very dry air conditions, so it may be better to keep them outside in light shade or dappled sun during the summer, only keeping them inside over the winter.  As with all ferns, a high nitrogen fertilizer works best, applied when the plants are actively growing.

Posted: 7/23/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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