Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Fantastic Ferns

Ferns are one of the oldest plant groups in the world; believe it or not some of today’s British ferns were here when the dinosaurs still roamed, however, they often get overlooked. Many ferns look similar on a first glance, and they lack flowers to make them stand out from the crowd but the beauty is in the detail!

Harts-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
Ferns can give you some really interesting clues about the environment that you’re in. Below are a few of my favourite ferns and what they indicate.

Harts-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)  is one of the most recognisable ferns we have in Britain, . It  is the only "simple" or undivided British fern, giving it a very unfern-like appearance. Growing clues! - Harts-tongue loves lime-rich soils in sheltered spots so, if you see one, the chances are you are standing on a calcareous bedrock. Also, the fronds will be bigger and greener the more sheltered and wet the site is. It will also grow on walls, but the fronds are usually much smaller and more yellow in colour.


Polypodies
Two very similar looking species, called Polypodies (Common - Polypodium vulgare, Intermediate - Polypodium interjectum) can be a real mission to tell apart, luckily we don't have to! Both species are most commonly found growing on sheltered banks and walls, however, they can also grow on tree branches on mossy mats - these are the ones to look out for.  Growing clues! - The maximum height at which they grow up a tree is an excellent barometer for how humid an environment they are growing in, with those in particularly humid spots growing on branches 10m+ off the ground.


Hard fern (Blechnum spicant)
Hard fern (Blechnum spicant) is an unusual fern in Britain as it has two different types of fronds - those that are fertile and those that aren't. Growing clues! -  This fern loves acidic soil and lots of rain, so it’s unlikely you will see this and Harts tongue fern growing together, but they can be a great indicator that the geology under your feet has changed.

There are plenty more interesting ferns; here is a great page by the British Pteridological Society which has loads more info on our fantastic range of British ferns.

If you have any questions or find a cool fern or one you’re not sure about, feel free to post it on our facebook page and I will try and help! 

- Ryan

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