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New Member

  • Subject: [ferns] New Member
  • From: "Tom Stuart" tstuart@westnet.com
  • Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 11:09:34 -0500

I garden in New York, 50 miles, 80 km, north of New York City. The garden 
is on a wooded, granitic, glacial moraine. The soil is highly acidic, rich 
woodland. This area was cleared in the 18th century, and luckily being too 
steep for cultivation, was used only for grazing. Some larger trees were 
retained or introduced for summer shade, so there are a number of 100++ 
year old Quercus velutina, black oaks. Abandoned as pasture around 1900, 
blueberries were grown for a few years, attesting to the acidity. Then it 
reverted to woodland.

Rainfall is 40 inches, 100 cm, spread erratically throughout the year. Six 
weeks without rain is quite rare, but one such event a few years ago mid-
summer is a possible factor in the demise of a stand of Lycopodium.

It seems unlikely there were many ferns during its pasture period, but the 
adjoining property is a reservoir, closed to farming early in the Nineteenth 
Century; the last tombstone date in a cemetary used until the closure is 
1822. So there was a head start on reforestation and a home for ferns. 

The first habitation on the property was a modest retreat, more accurately, a 
shack, built by a Wall Street trader turned hermit around 1950. The shack 
was replaced by the next owners who planted evergreens available in any 
local garden center, mostly exotics, but not much else. Evidence that ferns 
were not among their acquisitions are the lack of ferns in local trade, and the 
abundance of all of the following in the surrounding woodland. By the time I 
began the garden, there was:

Adiantum pedatum
Asplenium platyneuron
Athyrium filix-femina
Cystopteris fragilis
Dryopteris marginalis
Dennstaedtia punctiloba
Lycopodium obscurum
Onoclea sensibilis
Polypodium virginianum
Polystichum acrostichoides
Selaginella apoda

My interest in ferns began with the no-work rock outcrop display of  
Dryopteris marginalis, Polystichum acrostichoides, and Adiantum pedatum 
in one corner of the property:


The fernaholic group at the New York Botanic Garden shares responsibility 
for Acquisition Fever which soon took hold; the current garden survivors are:

Adiantum venustum
Asplenium adulterinum
Asplenium trichomanes
Athyrium niponicum
Athyrium filix-femina x niponicum
Blechnum penna-marina
Blechnum spicant
Cheilanthes lanosa
Cheilanthes sp. ex Alaska
Cyrtomium falcatum
Cyrtomium fortunei
Dryopteris affinis
Dryopteris erythrosora
Dryopteris filix-mas
Dryopteris  tokyoensis
Osmunda cinnamomea
Osmunda claytonia
Osmunda regalis
Phyllitis scolopendrium
Polypodium interjectum
Polypodium vulgare
Polystichum neolobatum
Polystichum polyblepharum
Polystichum retrosopaleaceum
Polystichum tsu-simense
Selaginella involvens
Selaginella rupestris
Thelypteris phegopteris or Phegopteris connectilis
Woodsia intermedia
Woodsia polystichoides

Propagationally, I've just had my first success transitioning sporelings to the 
real world, Phyllitis scolopendrium, and then the slugs came round the bend. 

I have lurked long enough to know some big guns are about, so my 
contributions will be more in the way of questions rather than answers.

To begin, is there any special trick to getting Blechnum to produce fertile 
fronds? I have never seen one on either of two here. B. penna-marina doesn't 
look exhuberant, but it creeps around much as it does in the subalpine areas 
of New Zealand. There are many photos on the web, nearly all lacking fertile 
fronds. An exception is this super specimen from Judith Jones's site:


B. spicant is a crown of 20 or so fronds here, looking nearly as mature as 
this one on the web,

www.boga.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/html/ Blechnum_spicant_Foto.html

but without the fertile fronds. Both here suffer hotter summers (a number of 
days at 35C) and colder winters (Zone 6, average minimum -23C though not 
recently) compared to their native haunts. Does that sap their strength? 
Does any reader here have a successful report in a climate similar to mine?

Second question: the Case of the Disappearing Botrychium dissectum. Eight 
years ago there was a good-sized stand of it mixed with Lycopodium 
obcurum, L. flabelliforme and L. annotinum near the shores of the reservoir. 
In several searches over the last half dozen years it could not be found, but 
last week, criss-crossing the Lycopodium sea, a single plant was located. I 
read it has years-long underground existence before emerging. Is it also 
cyclical? Or are deer, responsible for decline of so many other plants, a 
more likely cause? Ferns seem pretty low on their menu here. 

Tom Stuart, Putnam County, New York
Zone 6 if they would turn off the greenhouse effect.

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