Staghorn Fern- What is Staghorn Fern?


Staghorn fern, Platycerium superbum, is a very unique and unusual fern that belongs to the genus Platycerium, and the family Polypodiaceae. You will find helpful facts and information on staghorn fern and tips on how to care for and grow healthy plants.

"Staghorn Fern"

Staghorn Fern is an epiphyte

Facts and information on Staghorn Ferns

Staghorn ferns get their name from their appearance liking to horns of Stags and Elks horns in the case of Elkhorn Fern. They are epiphytes, meaning that they grow on or attach themselves to another plant, but they are in no way parasitic, getting nutrients from another plant. They are also dimorphic plants, which means that they have two different forms. The staghorn fern has both fertile and sterile leaves on the same plant.

In the wild of Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and parts of Australia, they make their homes in tropical trees. They find sufficient nutrients in the humus they collect to live independently.

The sizes and shapes of staghorn ferns vary a great deal. They range from little thumb-like antlers to the giant P. Angolense seen in botanical gardens.

Staghorn ferns are the curios among the fern family and never fail to draw attention. They grow slowly, and make excellent houseplants. Even if one of the larger species is obtained, its ultimate size should cause no concern.

"Staghorn Ferns"

Large Staghorn Fern Specimen

The “antlers” are the fertile part of the fern. It radiates from the center of several layers of round or kidney-shaped shields that are the sterile leaves. In nature, the shields assume nearly veritcal positions either on tree trunks or in crotches of limbs.

The outermost shields are green and sometimes inner ones persist two or three deep. Older ones eventually become brown and finally rot. Shields have a definite purpose- which is to catch and store moisture and any organic material that is washed into them.

Spores appear on the underside of the “antlers”, closely spaced all over the apical lobes. At maturity they give the leaf a brown velvety surface.

Growing Staghorn Fern

Use a mixture of fibrous material with humus and sand for potting. Place the fern on cork bark and hang it vertically to give a natural setting. You should be careful, and make sure you give it periodic waterings, as this is essential.

For best results, you should have a humid atmosphere around staghorn ferns. The leaves are capable of absorbing considerable amounts of moisture from mist-spraying. Filtered winter sunlight and open shade in summer are also recommended.

Staghorn fern scale- Fern Scale is often a problem found on some ferns. You can try to combat fern scale by applying horticultural oil on the scales. Use a Q-tip or swab for applying the oil. Other remedies, such as alcohol, are used on cottony varieties of scale. Always check your ferns often for any signs of scale. scale can be picked off, providing that you don't have too many.

Species of  Staghorn Fern, Platycerium:

Platycerium superbum is the common species we know as staghorn fern.

Platycerium alcicorne is a species of staghorn fern found in Mozambique and Madagascar.

Platycerium bifurcatum, Elkshorn fern, is a species that grows on tree trunks and branches of trees.

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