The fern family is a large collection of plants with native habitats from faraway places like Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Australia and South America.
Within the Fern family lives the platycerium, “Staghorn Fern,” clan.
These are epiphytic plants which attach themselves to tree trunks and branches. Their spores, found on the underside of the leaves, disperse onto adjacent tree trunks when mature.
Their unique leaves are shaped like antlers; hence they received the common name Staghorn.
There is another type of platycerium called the “Moose” as its fronds do not split as deeply. They can become a dramatic focal point in a shady place in your garden.
There are two types of leaves on a Staghorn each distinctly formed. The shield frond is the green plate at the base of each new pup. The brown leaf is another shield that traps moisture and nutrients.
Whether the plants are mounted on boards, planted in a hanging basket or even as large potted plants, they are spectacular show stoppers in any patio or shaded garden setting.
There are many species to look for and Platycerium bifurcatum is the most common and easy to grow. If this family excites you, look for the rare Platycerium superbum, an elegant specimen to add to your collection.
As the plant grows it can be divided using a saw, pruner or a machete. When you divide the plant, make sure you include roots from the mother plant.
These plants are not fussy about food. In early spring and midsummer, I feed with blood meal or fish emulsion to keep them healthy and green.
Bromeliads are excellent companion plants to Staghorns when planted together in pots. An assorted mixture of plants makes for a more colorful and eye appealing display.
Roger Boddaert, the Tree Man of Fallbrook, can be contacted at [email protected] or 760-728-4297.