|Staghorn Fern at Allan Gardens, Toronto.|
Epiphytes are a little peculiar in the first place, for us northerners. Plants that grow on tree branches or trunks, and don't even need to be in a pot with soil are specimens we never encounter in the wild. (Unless, mistletoe?) Luckily we have public greenhouses. A visit to the conservatory at the Botanical Gardens in Buffalo, NY led to my first stirrings of Staghorn Love, and a trip to the States to where I saw some positively gargantuan staghorn specimens really knocked me off my feet. Eventually—like father, like daughter—I too, am now officially "Crazy about those Staghorn Ferns."
What's their appeal? Their other worldy-droopiness, their greyish, velvety texture, the way they wildly map out three dimensional space with their branching fronds, and that strange Star Trek-y flat brown disc thing they grow out of. The disc is actually a sterile frond, which anchors it to the tree it grows on. The University of Florida Extension on Staghorn Ferns:
Platycerium bifurcatum. The most common species in cultivation and also the easiest to
grow. Produces large numbers of "pups" eventually forming a very large plant. Dark
green color. Hardy to temperatures of 30°F (1.1°C) for short periods. Many varieties are
available. Native to Australia and New Guinea.
|Plenty of pups on this Staghorn Fern at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. The brown tips on the leaves are spores.|
|The spotted leaves I removed from my staghorn fern.|
A close inspection found mysterious spots on its leaves, which I am figuring is some kind of fungus: probably Rhizoctonia, and not mealy bug as I had first guessed: It's the type of fungus that takes hold when soil is too moist and environment has little air circulation. (The camera revealed something I'd missed with my eyes, what I took for mealybug were a few whiteflies.)
|My Staghorn, shadow of its former self, after I removed the fungus-infected leaves.|