Plant Collector: Staghorn fern or Platycerium

Our giant staghorn fern or platycerium

Our giant staghorn fern or platycerium

In some parts of the world, these are all referred to as elkhorn ferns. I guess we are more familiar with stags than elks in this neck of the woods. The leaves are generally seen as resembling antlers. The general wisdom in NZ is that there are only two varieties – the staghorn and the elkhorn but in fact there appear to be nearer 20 different ones, hailing from the tropics and subtropics in a band around the globe, central to and south of the equator. Best guess is that this one is P. bifurcatum which is native to Java, New Guinea and the east coast of Australia. This tells you that it is frost tender.

The platyceriums are all ephiphytic and are widely grown as houseplants. This particular plant, after decades in our woodland area, measures about a metre across and a metre deep, holding the rather slender host tree in an all-round embrace. It draws all the nutrition and moisture it needs from the air. We give it no attention at all beyond an annual tidy up when I remove the dislodged foliage that has fallen from the trees above. Staghorns are sold from time to time and often grown as house plants in chillier areas. Just wire it to a support of some assortment. Grown as a houseplant, it will need more attention because it won’t be receiving the nutrition and moisture but there are plenty of references on how to care for them in a controlled environment.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Advertisements