Saturday, October 17, 2009

Frond happenings

Around this time each year, as spring gets into full swing, my bird's nest fern goes about the interesting business of unfurling its new fronds. It's a slightly eerie thing, this fern, the kind of plant that large vego dinosaurs probably munched on, before that errant asteroid ruined everything for them 65 million years ago.

Uncurl, unfurl, traa daa!

Several of them look like a gathering of so many alien elders in a conference of some sort.

The late afternoon light glowing through its fronds distracts your attention from the fact that this oddly fascinating plant also has to occupy one of the worst positions in my garden. It has carried out this assignment for a long time now, without any trouble at all. It's wedged in between my tumbler compost bin and one of my olive trees, in a lot of shade.

Looking down into the plant, you can see how it feeds itself, both here in my garden and in the wild. Here, olive leaves are caught in the centre and, as they slowly turn into compost, the plant gets all the food it needs. In the forest, they usually grow either on the branches of large trees, or on large boulders. Mine is in the ground.

The older adult leaves are quite leathery things, but these fresh, green youngsters remain quite pretty for a month or two.

Here's what I mean about a truly lousy position in the garden. It's shady, hidden from view by a murraya hedge, and crowded with other foliage plants, including several other ferns.

The botanical name of my bird's nest fern is Asplenium australasicum, and that second part of its name confirms that it is an Australian native fern, of which there are numerous species that populate our many shady forest gullies around the continent. This is probably the most commonly grown native fern in gardens, so common that a lot of people don't realise that it's a native.

If you have a rotten spot where nothing seems to thrive, and where the wide-spreading habit of this plant wouldn't be a bother, give a bird's nest fern a try. I've read that they don't like frosts much, though, but as that isn't a problem here in Sydney my bird's nest fern and I have been happy companions for years now, and I am sure that will remain the case for many more years to come as well.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie~~ Ah spring. You lucky devil! I shouldn't complain. It's been mild so far this October. We have Asplenium scoloplendrium, or Hart's Tongue Fern. It's surprisingly frost hardy and looks very similar to yours only much smaller. Yours is fabulous!

degarfs said...

Hi Jamie,

I am a newbie to ferns.

Can the following ferns plant on shady tree trunk?
Bird Nest fern
Hen and Chicken fern
Maiden fern

Also, is my elkhorn surviving when the leave & "eye" are turning brown? It was recently given to me after divided.

Need your advise, thanks

degarfs said...

Hi Jamie

Any advice?

Some people told me that it is not a good idea to plant ferns on a tree as it will rot the main tree.

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