Hardy Ferns

zarachniodes simpliciorArachniodes simplicior

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Genus: Arachniodes (a-rak-nee-OH-dees)
Species: simplicior (sim-PLIK-ee-or)
Meaning: Spider-like Common name: East Indian Holly

For those of you who are saying to yourself, 'give me anything that will not freeze', this is the fern for you. This is a picture of mine with the dusting of snow that we got in February. This fern does very well in part shade to full shade. I have found once established it is pretty drought tolerant, has taken our hot summers well, and took our cold spells of the last two winters without missing a beat.

The East Indian holly fern is a Hardy fern for us and evergreen. It is a medium-sized fern, about 18'' tall and wide. I have found it to be a slow grower, but pretty self-sufficient, not needing much in the way of grooming. Other than its hardiness, it is grown for its dark green leaves with a burst of yellow/gold down the center of the midrib of each lance-shaped leaf. The leaves are very spaced out and there are not a lot of them. It is not the greatest for a potted plant, but looks nice in the ground and in groupings of three spaced out about 18''.
I really like this fern!! For this fern, I would buy a large one now. Watching it grow up from a starter is almost like watching paint dry.


zPleopeltis polypodioidesPleopeltis polypodioides the Resurrection fern

Family: Polypodiaceae
Genus: Pleopeltis plee-oh-PEL-tiss
Species: polypodioides pol-ee-pod-ee-OY-deez

The commonly called Resurrection fern is a Texas native epiphyte. This is one of those truly fun ferns. I was looking up at my Walnut tree and all the branches are covered with all of these seemingly dead ferns, and a went and got my camera for this article, because it is suppose to rain the first part of the week. So I thought this should be a good before and after shot. We did not get any rain... so I had to cheat and turn on the sprinkler.
This should be one of the many ferns we see on our field trip to the Little Thicket.

Epiphyte is like an air plant, it grown on something (a tree) but does not get any nutrients from the host. So it does not harm the tree it only uses the tree to live on, not to live.

Many of us remember this fern as Polypodium polypodioides that was so much fun to say!!

This polypodium is extremely drought tolerant, it will turn brown and curl up it leaves and retreats into a little cluster. When the rain comes then it is able to rehydrate itself because the under side of the leaf will suck in the returned water supply and as it swells with water the leaf will fold back out and burst open the green chlorophyll in the leaves rejuvenates and you have a beautiful carpet of ferns grown up the truck of a big hardwood tree and down it's branches. The resurrection process takes about 24 hours Here in East Texas it is very common to see Spanish moss growing in the same tree, this make for a very beautiful combination of plants growing in the forest.

Experiments have shown that the fern can loose up to 97 percent of its water or be dormant for a 100 years and still be resurrected with a good soaking from Mother Nature. With our humidity how could it loose that last 3 percent of water we have almost liquid air.

How to grow outside of nature. That is a good question. I have not had the best luck with this, but then I have not tried real hard we have them in most of our trees here at the house. When we have lost limbs off tree that have the fern all over it I will bring it up to the house and try to enjoy it, but it seems to only last about a year for me, just left on the limb and not doing anything to change the growing medium.

While I was researching for this artificial I found information on how to grow as a house plant. It said to use a clay pot and very coarse sand, no soil and no sphagnums moss. Water in the Spring and Fall and let it dry out over Summer and Winter. It did suggest high humidity and we know with our air conditioners we loose that in the house, so place in a saucer with pebbles to keep the fern from loosing 100 percent of its moisture. This might be something we try for a work shop.... I have the plants...

Did you know that this fern was taken into space as part of a NASA experiment to watch its resurrection in zero gravity. Pretty special!!!

zarachniodes simpliciorOsmunda regalis European

Family: Osmundaceae
Genus: Osmunda (os-MUN-duh)
Species: regalis (re-GAY-liss)

The Osmunda regalis European is best known to us at the Royal fern. It is a Old World fern that has also been called the 'Flowering Fern'. With Old World ferns comes folklore and this fern comes with its fair share.
The first folklore starts with the name its self. Osmunda-
Some derive the name from the Saxons Os- means House and Mund - means Peace, so House of Peace.

Others think the name was based on the fairy maid 'At Loch Tyne'. Back in the time the Danes were invading and raising havoc throughout the land. One family living at that time was a man named Osmund , his wife and their daughter who was said to be the fairest of maidens. On one such raid a man heard of their coming and fearing for his women rowed them to an island that was covered with the Great Royal ferns. The ferns reached the heights of 10 feet tall and he had his wife and daughter laid down under these great ferns and hid. Later when it was safe he returned to retrieve his wife and daughter and they were safely waiting for him. When the maiden grew into a woman, she refered to those Tall ferns as the Osmond after her father.

Regalis is a Latin word that means Royal or Kingly, this has to be for the majestic appearance of the fern.

Further folklore is that if you eat the very first crosier as it comes up in the spring, you will be tooth ache free for the full year. Don't you know that the fern must have almost become extinct from the local dentist trying to save their business. Ah lucky for us that it was pre-dentist.

The 'Flowering Fern'. We know from our studies of ferns that they do not flower. So where did this nickname come from? In the spring the new fronds push up and as the uncurl and put on their leaves the top have of the frond will be so completely covered in sori that it appears to be a bloom. It will first look green as this is another green spore fern, and then as it ages it turns a rusty to brown color. This explains the confusion of long ago.

The folklore on the height of the fern was not lore, but true they can grow up to 10 feet, but normally they will be in the 3-4 foot range. The taller ferns are on very old growth that has been established for years and the trunks have grown to be a foot to two feet talk. Not to say in a few years some of us might have one to really show off. This is a clumping fern and only puts of a few rare offshoots. It does not grow as wide as it does tall, only a couple feet wide.

The Osmunda fibrous trunk is used for mounting Orchids on as it is a very tough and durable substance. It takes a saw to cut through the truck. So dividing these is no simple task. You're going to need a really sharp shovel once they get grown.

The Royal fern is considered a bog fern, liking very moist to wet soil. The soil should be high acid so plenty of peat or pine needles to give them the nourishment the require. High light will work for this fern as well. The European Old World Regalis has a much thicker sturdier steam than the New World counterpart we have here in the States. When fall comes so does the fall colors as it turn yellow to brown we know that next year we will experience the rebirth all over again.

Osmunda cinnamomeaOsmunda cinnamomea the Cinnamon fern

Family: Osmundaceae
Genus: Osmunda (os-MUN-duh)
Species: cinnamomea (sin-uh-MOH-mee-uh)

The Osmundaceae family date back to the first dinosaurs in the early Mesozoic age which was about 210 million years ago. This fact has been prove by the fossil remains it so generously left us to study. They have been in continues existence every since then. Talk about longevity.
They produced strong black root fibers that is really their erect rhizome that was so stout that the dinosaurs left it alone. Keep in mind the vegetarian dinosaurs would have been the ones eyeing those sweet crosiers and they did not want to break their teeth on the leaf steam that takes a saw to cut even now days. This fiber is so long lasting it is often used today in potting mixes. The Osmunda cinnamomea is the one we will learn about now.
The Cinnamon fern as it is most often referred to as is a specimen plant that can grow 3' wide and tall. It is a clumping fern so it is not likely to spread everywhere in your yard. It is deciduous and goes dormant in the early winter after a nice display of fall color with its yellowing leaves adding to the fall landscape. When spring arrives you will know, because this will be one of the first ferns pushing up it new year's crosiers. They come up in one massive clump of fiddleheads with their very hairy spirals un furloughing upwards. Once the crosiers turn in to your spring fronds, you will be thrilled at the arrival of the fertile fronds that will shoot up from the center and an look almost like cat tails with its green spore proudly displayed at the top. The shoots will have a brownish to cinnamon color hairs and when the spore tops have expired the turn to a cinnamon color, between the two that is how it derived its name.
For those that were able to go on last spring's field trip to the little thicket. We saw the cinnamon fern as it grows wild in the damp marshes of the thicket. We saw the spore shoots with it green spore before it released them to try to make new ferns to keep it spices alive for another million years or so.
Growing the Osmunda cinnamomea requires acid soil, moist conditions and high light. Proper spacing will allow the plant ample room to show off. Growing from spore requires harvesting the green spore and getting them sowed within just a few days. If you are not quite ready you can refrigerate and this will lengthen their viability a few days longer. The only way to keep them any longer is to freeze them. I have been told that freezing them in an ice cube works, but your still only talking a short time frame. It is amazing that it has last thought the eons of time, and the spore only last a few days. They only spore once a year, so if you miss it, you wait until next spring when the life cycle starts all over again.
The Cinnamon fern that we will have for the members will be a 4" potted dormant plant. You need to keep it just moist until it shows signs of life. If you elect to plant it be sure and keep the crown above ground level. It will still need moisture to keep it alive, but you do not want it to root because it is not using the excess water to support active growth.
This is a sturdy fern and is sure to give your garden delight throughout its growing season. It is a strong grower and should be placed where you don't need to move it so it will reach its full potential, and it will reward you for years to come. Hey it out lasted the dinosaurs...

Marsilea the Water cloverMarsilea the Water clover

Family: Marsileaceae
Genus: Marsilea (mar-SIL-ee-uh)

Marsilea is a bog type fern that resembles a four leaf clover , growing in constantly moist parts of the landscape, rooting themselves deeply into the mud. There are over 60 species and depending on the species can take cold to zone 3 all the way to tropical species.
The life cycle of the Marsilea is very complex and the spore can be viable for up to a 100 years. Once the spore lands in water it can complete it's life cycle in 10 to 15 hours. The spores will germinate within minutes the sori resemble grains of white rice arranged in a row. Within a few more minutes the sori will release the small male and much larger female spores and they will quickly germinate and fertile in the water. After a week the female spores will look like white dots and at that point they are ready to be placed on wet sand or mud with an eyedropper. Marsilea will mature in 12 to 18 months.
They have long creeping rhizomes, and depending on the species grow 3" to 12" tall . These are a novelty fern in that they don't look like a typical fern at all. We can simulate a bog area by placing a potted Marsilea in 4" of water, this will keep it at the moister it needs to excel.

zPleopeltis polypodioidesArachniodes standishii the Upside down fern

Family: Dryopteridaceae
Genus: Arachniodes (a-rak-nee-OH-dees)
Species: standishii (stan-DEE-shee-eye)

The Upside down fern. After our last two winters I think most of us are looking for something that will be pretty and still alive during those cold January mornings, and yet still alive after a weeklong of our over 100F in our brutal summers. If so this is the fern for you!
It received its name because when you look at the leaves themselves they look like you're looking at the underside of most ferns. The veins are prominent on the upper side of the fronds surface rather than the more common lower side. This gives it a very unique look against other ferns.
Being a Evergreen year round for the Houston area is a huge plus for this shapely formed fern with gracefully arching fronds. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage. Once mature can be 3' tall and wide, however it is a slow grower, but well worth watching A. stndishii grow.
This fern does best in partial shade to shade. It prefers an evenly moist well-drained loamy soil for optimal growth, I have found this fern to be forgiving on the water too, on those occasions that it get to much or not enough seems to just take it in stride along with the tempiture. This is not a bog fern it cannot take standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone over the growing season to conserve soil moisture. This plant can be propagated by division.
The nice thing too for us that live outside the loop is the deer don't particularly care for this fern either. Being a relatively low maintenance fern with light green new fronds that turn to a darker almost forest green once mature.
The Upside down fern really is a Plus Plus for us... It has no significant negative characteristics. I got my first plant about 5 years ago and it is said they can live about 15 years. So far so good!

Adiantum -Maidenhair ferns

pedulium- fivefinger maidenhair fern