POLYPODIACEAE       FERN FAMILY

INTRODUCTION:  Ferns are in the division Pteridophyta since they do not produce seeds.  Their life cycle is distinct from that of the flowering plants and involves two alternating generations, the sporophyte generation which is the large fern commonly grown as a houseplant, and the gametophyte generation which is tiny, and moss-like in appearance.  The sporophyte generation produces many small, brown sori on the lower surfaces of the leaves.  If the spores produced in these sori fall to a favorable warm, moist medium, they will grow into the gametophyte generation of sperm and egg producing plants.  When egg and sperm of the gametophytes fuse, this gives rise to the new sporophyte generation. 
 The indoor ferns are all of tropical origin.  They include epiphytes and terrestrial ferns.  Many ferns produce rhizomes which increase the size of the clump of plants and act as propagules.   
 The plants known as asparagus fern and artillery fern are not true ferns. 
 The genus Adiantum includes the maiden hair ferns.  They are often found near streams and thrive in wet soil rich in organic matter and benefit from very high humidity and mists on their leaves. 
 Asplenium nidus is the bird’s nest fern.  It produces wide fronds that are not subdivided into leaflets.  The fronds all arise from a common base giving the plant the appearance of a bird’s nest. 
 The leaflets of Cyrtomium resemble holly leaves.  Holly fern is the common name of the members of this genus. 
 Davallia fejeensis is the rabbit’s-foot fern.  It produces heavy, furry rhizomes which resemble a rabbits foot.  These rhizomes creep along the soil and often over the edge of the pot, a very attractive feature of this fern as a house plant. 
 Nephrolepis exalta is the Boston fern.  this is by far the most common of the ferns.  The Boston fern has many different cultivars and they vary in the size of the plant as well as in leaf characteristics. 
 Platyceriumbifurcatus is the staghorn fern.  In the United States, what we refer to as the sago fern, Cycas revoluta, is actually a conifer and more closely related to a pine tree.

General Care of Ferns:  
   

   

temperature: Average room temperature is good for ferns.  They are all of tropical origin and can not take cold weather.
medium: Rich organic matter is the best medium.  Peat and compost make excellent media for ferns.  Epiphytes that normally grow exposed on large branches are often mounted on slabs of wood or other structure to simulate their natural growing situations.
water: Most ferns benefit from a moist medium and respond to drought by turning a lighter,  
paler green until they have been given water.  Many ferns benefit from being misted with water when growing in drier environments.
light: Low to moderate is best.  Bright light will cause burning.
fertilization: In a medium rich in organic matter most ferns need relatively little additional fertilizer.  Fertilizers high in nitrogen are used when the ferns begin to run out of nutrients.
pests and problems: Mealy bugs, mites, white flies and scale all come to ferns.  Some of the mites are extremely small and not visible to the unaided eye.
grooming: Remove old leaves to keep the plant’s appearance attractive.  Repot as needed.
propagation: Spores can be sown on peat pellets as described in the outline on fern propagation.  Rhizomatous ferns can be propagated by planting small sections of their rhizomes.  Division is common with the clumping ferns such as the common Boston fern.

 

 
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