- Author: Sharon L. Rico
It's exciting to meet a person who is passionate about their hobby and wants to share every detail from the beginning to the present with others. This was Uncle Lindy's (aka Lindy Castelli) story he shared when we toured his unusual garden.
We learned “Staghorn ferns 101”. Platycerium bifurcatum, are from the Polypodiaceae family. They are soil free and slow growing, native to the rain forests. They grow from spores. An old staghorn is a prized possession.
Uncle Lindy did not know he would inherit a collection of staghorn ferns. He had admired a friend's plants and one day his friend drove up in his truck and said, “You better take these plants or they're going to the dump”. How could he say no?
This monster of the low-light garden, hanging from a board, bark or tree, looks like an alien with large antler-like fronds. Hence, the common name, Staghorn Fern. The second part, or “body” of a staghorn is made up of papery “sterile” shields that hold soil, organic debris and moisture. This provides necessary nutrients to the fern. These flat shields overlap each other and are pale green aging to black. They support the plant and resemble large scales. As they turn black and die off, new “pups” will replace them.
Staghorn ferns prefer warm weather and require frost protection. They will mold and rot with too much water, yet enjoy light showers. Only water when they are dry. They thrive with granular fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer such as Fish Emulsion. Fertilize during the growing season. Ants and mites may move in and if so, just spray them off. Staghorn ferns prefer morning light and like to face east. Give them a trim in the spring, but leave the old shields for frost protection in the fall. Do not allow the shields to completely close. An opening needs to remain to collect nutrients and moisture or the fern will not survive.
In nature, Staghorn ferns grow on stumps and wrap around trees. They are not parasites like mistletoe. To maintain, prune out the yellow and dead fronds. They are great plants for a sunroom, patio or greenhouse. Uncle Lindy had his collection mounted in trees, next to the front door, and under an arbor along the backyard fence.
Uncle Lindy demonstrated several methods of mounting Staghorn ferns. One way was to place the fern in an old tree trunk, using Spanish moss and Miracle Grow soil in the base of the trunk. He secured the fern with clear fishing line. The second planting was placing the fern in a Pepperwood plank knothole. After placing moss and soil in the knothole, the staghorn fern was added, and secured with the clear fishing line.
He told us we could find Staghorn ferns in the houseplant section of our local big box stores usually in the spring.
It was an educational tour of a very intriguing garden collection. Uncle Lindy had a lot to share!
As we left I heard that Uncle Lindy has a second passion. Sweetpeas! This warrants another trip-sign me up. I'm ready to hear “Sweetpeas 101!