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Updated: 06/18/2014 12:12:46AM

Grow
a giant staghorn fern

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GardGate112212A

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

Staghorn ferns are classed as epiphytes—meaning they don’t grow in soil, but in nature attach themselves to trees and take all their nutrients from air, rainwater and plant debris. They are fairly easy to care for—and very long lived.

GardGate112212B

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

The plant is composed of two distinctly different types of fronds. The basal fronds, also called sterile fronds are usually rounded and grow in overlapping layers. From the center of the basal bract the foliar fronds, also called fertile fronds emerge.

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ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

On the undersides of the foliar fronds, reproductive parts called sporangia cluster at the tips. The usual way to propagate staghorn fern is to remove one or more “pups”—the newly formed basal fronds with a foliar bract just forming.

Over the Garden Gate

By al and Karen Smoke

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Staghorn ferns are more than mere plants—adopt one and you will find they seem to be plants with personalities. These huge ferns are classed as epiphytes—meaning they don’t grow in soil, but in nature attach themselves to trees and take all their nutrients from air, rainwater and plant debris. They are prized for their unusual appearance.

They are fairly easy to care for—and very long lived. Giant stags 25 to 50 years old are not unusual, and they are passed along and shared almost as family pets. They are tropical plants native to the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Madagascar, Africa and America.

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