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Re: Re: red leaf mystery continues

  • Subject: Re: [ferns] Re: red leaf mystery continues
  • From: "Keith Rogers" kerogers@lm.net.au
  • Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 22:02:30 +1030

Hi Dean

Your description of the almost string line effect is most interesting and
can understand your great interest in this phenomena.

I think the real point may well be that the species changed, they may have
looked similar, except for the redness.  Botanists find none-visual things
to differentiate between species. The keys in no way mention any of the
Sadlaria being red, it does not show up in a herbarium sample many years

The temperature factor is probably very important, one species does not grow
into the cooler regions that is why nature perhaps changed the species.
This is very common in some areas.  Take PNG for example, with treeferns
over great time and the with rising and lowering of the sea level creating
many different species with only minimal differences.

The only way to solve the mystery is to have a spore patch from each and the
key to ID them. You notice the elevation of growths, it is not definitive,
but generally goes to point out that the different species vary in height
above sea level.

This key is from Pacific Science (1996) Vol 51 No 3. A revision of the Genus
Sadleir (Blechnaceae) Daniel D Palmer, Bishop Museum Hawaii.

In the early words it mentions the Sadleria cyatheoides group having various
common names and one as being called "ehu'ehu" or "red pig" from the red dye
extracted from the bark.

The key points out in very strong terms that some of the other species are
almost the same as S. cyatheoides.  This may explain the differences in

You were probably fortunate to have been there at the right time as this
phenomena may only occur over a few months of the year. It will be
interesting to hear about your return.  Do you have any images of this
phenomena as many would like to share your wonderful experience.

Sadlaria cyatheoides are no harder to grow from spore than any of the other
mid range ferns.  As for growing them in Ca, my climate here is the same,
but I lost one of mine from lack of attention due to illness.

Your thoughts on redness are interesting, I find they seem to be more prone
to some insect attacks and the color may be the answer.  Just have different
insects where we live than the plants native area.   My red Chambeyronia
macrocarpa palm is included in this comment.

Red/pink fronded ferns mostly emerge in the spring, probably because their
growth is restricted in winter or the cooler areas, although my red and pink
Blechnum brasilience has no color in the shadehouse in the winter but full
color all year in the conservatory.  Other Blechnum, Adiantum, Doodia,
Anemia and Woodwardia it also appears to be sunlight after winter which
brings out the new red/pink fronds.

Kindest regards

Keith Rogers
Mannum South Australia

On the web with Keith's Fern Page at

Supporting the Fern Society of South Australia Inc at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dean Ouer" <d.ouer@cox.net>
To: <ferns@hort.net>
Sent: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 5:14 AM
Subject: [ferns] Re: red leaf mystery continues

> Thanks everyone for the feedback about emerging red frond ferns. However,
> am no closer to an explanation to my original inquiry that seems more than
> just conjecture. In order to clarify my initial curiosity and question,
> me throw this back out for discussion in light of the recent feedback.
> I agree that the red coloration in ferns seems more pronounced during
> weather. This generally also seems to hold true with palms that have red
> emerging fronds, though not always. On this gentle slope over several
> thousand acres in Hawaii that is covered with Sadleria cyatheoides, it
> changes from a green leaf to a red leaf in the matter of several feet,
> continually across the slope. You could almost string a line and
> on the lower side is green emerging and everything on the upper side is
> emerging with the plants appearing identical in other respects.
> Of course, my initial speculation was a climatic influence of weather,
> or light. However, I am aware of a S. cyatheiodes that supposedly has a
> frond in all different conditions. Several books mention it. Therefore, I
> thought this red leafed variety in question was a different species or
> variant.
> However, this seemed strange because of the abruptness of the change in
> these plants. It is almost as if over hundreds of square miles on this
> every single fern on one side of a road would be green without exception
> the other side would be all red without one exception. This in an area
> literally covered with Sadleria cyatheiodes. I might add, I am fairly
> certain these are all S. cyatheiodes and not another Sadleria species.
> Even if they are different species or variants, I found it hard to believe
> what I was seeing with essentially no noticeable overlap in area between
> two populations.
> Of course the easy test would be to take a red leaf plant from the higher
> area and transplant it in a lower area and see what happens. However, I
> they are touchy to replant and would be especially so in lava. Even so, I
> will attempt to do so on my next trip in Dec. I would like to bring spore
> back of the red leaf fern to So. California, but I hear it is not easy to
> grow and it would be a long time before I knew if I had a different fern
> than the green leafed variety I and others are presently growing here. If
> someone knew for sure, I could save myself a lot of time and trouble.
> I might add the following. Since I am new to ferns I have not heard "fern
> people" suggest a reason for the red emerging frond. In the palm society
> have surmised that it is a defense mechanism for the new tender growth to
> appear brown or dead to marauding insects. Supposedly to their "eyesight"
> red appears brown and therefore dead, and flying insects will bypass this
> succulent tender growth.
> Thanks again for all those who contribute to this discussion,
> Dean Ouer
>  --- Original Message -----
> From: "Duane & Dixie Petersen" <dpetersen11@cox.net>
> To: "fernnet" <ferns@hort.net>
> Sent: Monday, November 18, 2002 9:11 AM
> Subject: [ferns] where the red ferns grow
> > While my experiences with red new growth on ferns is limited to a few
> > species, there seem to be a few factors that seem to remain constant.
> > In some adiantums no only is light a significant influence, but so is
> > temperature.  While many adiantums show red colors as new growth, they
> > show a significant difference in intensity of color when the
> > temperatures cool.  This is particularly true of the A. R.
> > mathewsii-microphyllum complex. During the high light of summer only a
> > few show significant coloration on the new fronds, but let the
> > temperatures drop below 60 degrees for a night or so and suddenly the
> > new growth becomes intensely red.  This is despite the lowering light
> > levels in winter.  Adiantum macrophyllum also shows a more intense red
> > during the cooler temperatures.  Many tenerum varieties also show color
> > and as an experiment I raised half of a batch of mixed sporlings in high
> > light (artificial) and the other half in natural, but lower light.  The
> > plants in 24 hours of artificial light were much more intensely colored,
> > this despite somewhat higher temperatures.  Of course to complete this
> > experiment I would have to raise half of these plants in 24 hours of
> > artificial lighting in a cool environment and the other half in natural
> > light with warmer conditions.
> >   Autumn ferns (dryopteris erythrosora) also show the influences of
> > light and temperature on their color.  Spring and fall seem give a
> > wonderful display of reds, oranges or maroons.  Summer growth, on the
> > other hand is slightly reddened or even a light green.  However, we
> > occasionally have a cool spell in Kansas during the middle of the
> > summer, and when we do the red fronds almost always show up again,
> > although with less intense colors than spring or fall.  This does not
> > negate the influence of light, however, since autumn ferns are shade
> > plants and they may actually receive more sun in the spring and fall
> > when the leaves of the shade trees may not have emerged and in autumn
> > may have already fallen.
> >
> > In summary, my experiences with red coloration in new fronds seems to
> > show that this coloring may vary by species, variety, and individual
> > plant.  However, for most plants red coloration seems to depend both on
> > light and temperatures (with temperature being the most important) as
> > major factors.  There is also a genetic component to coloration.  Some
> > few adiantum's in each sporing will stubbornly remain green regardless
> > of temperature, light, or my wishes. Duane Petersen
> >
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