Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Polystichum - Holly Fern, Shield Fern or Sword Fern. This is a group which is well represented in the garden here. I thought I'd just put them all up today since there is a chance that I won't be able to write tomorrow as we may not have electricity, yet again. They are predicting thunderstorms for this afternoon and evening with winds up to 60 mph. Temperatures today are going to be near 70 degrees and the wind is part of a cold front that will drop the temperature 30 degrees pretty quickly. The weather people said that those who lost their electrity last time in the ice storm might be the most likely to lose it again in this storm because of the damage already done to trees that might just lose branches that were damaged by the ice but which had not yet fallen. Fun!
This first fern is Polystichum acrostichoides or Christmas fern. It is shiny with narrow fronds. This is an easy one and evergreen here. Eary settlers used it for Christmas decorations, probably because it was one of the few green things around, hence the name. It is common in the moist woods of eastern North America and very common in our woods here. It will also grow among rocks or on dryish slopes and can help to prevent erosion. There is also a western version of this one, P. munitum.
Next is Polystichum braunii, Braun's Holly Fern. This has a narrower hardiness range and though it will tolerate the cold, doesn't do well warmer than zone 5. I try to grow it in the colder spots in the garden, but it suffers in a hot, humid summer. It is uncommon in the wild, but can be found in northern regions of North America, Europe, China and Japan.

Polystichum proliferum, Mother Shield Fern, is well named. It makes proliferous buds near the end of the rachis and is easily propagated from them. You just have to peg the frond tips down on moist soil or a sand-peat mixture until a new plant roots itself. This one is a warmer zone fern, only hardy down to zone 5 but happy all the way to zone 9. It is native to the high elevations of New Zealand and Australia.

Polystichum setiferum divisulobum (at least the setiferum part) is a common lowland species from southern Europe. This is one with lots of crested and other fancy forms. Divisilobum is a very finely divided one and almost looks feathers - very lacy, though it doesn't show all that well in this picture. The fronds are softer than some other Polystichums like the Christmas Ferns. There are also some named selections of this one.

This last one is Polystichum setiferum plumosomultilobum. I'm not sure this name is accurate since there seems to be a Divisilobus Plumosum and a Multilobum but not one that combines all of those names. They are very similar, so I guess I have one or the other of them. A lovely fern no matter what. There are also some dwarf forms, though I don't have any of them yet.

Only a few ferns to go. Hopefully I can do them tomorrow and we won't lose our electricity.

1 comment:

GardenJoy4Me said...

Jane ... I have enjoyed reading your fern posts .. I am a fern fan : )
I have the Christmas fern and it is very dependable, as one of my back bone ferns .. I'm not sure if I lost my Adiantum pedatum Miss Sharples .. some times I find ferns almost disappear and then show up a year or two later as with a few Autumn Brilliance ferns I have .. I guess if they are fed up with conditions some years they go on vacation ? : )