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Cool prehistoric ferns

July 27, 2018
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

We all need something cool to enjoy during this hot summer. Who has a few ferns tucked away in a cool shady corner of their yard, garden, lania or even inside the house?

You are enjoying a true old prehistoric plant if you have one or more of these lush plants.

The Fern class: Poly-podiopsda; Kingdom: Plantae, Subkingdom Embryoplyta.

In the old days these seedless plants appeared to be magical - how did they reproduce? - however, when botanist began to study plantlife with their ever busy microscopes, the mystery was soon solved.

The fern is a member of a group of vascular plants that do their reproducing via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. They are self-fertilizing. The sex life of plants and hundreds of other interesting information about the thousands of ferns growing everywhere on the planet and their "why" and "how" is a much too long a story for this column.

Some hot afternoon get a cool drink and fire up your favorite techie machine and read on. They are amazing plants, some of them are even edible.

I was skeptical about the eating part because I thought they were not supposed to be a food source and would cause nausea, headache and other undesirable problems. This could be true if you do not know what season, which fern, and how much to eat.

I was amazed that a Cape Coral gardening friend told me she actually used to eat the Fiddlehead ferns and enjoyed them, up North.

It seems the soft green stalks and the tips can be cooked like regular asparagus, sauted with some bacon, etc., or dropped into the soup pot.

Fiddlehead ferns are not the common houseplant ferns that you are growing in containers or the bushy foxtail ferns in the garden.

It is like going out and picking fresh mushrooms, you need to know what, how and when. For all I know, America's test kitchen has a recipe in their files.

Ferns like shade but some will tolerate dappled sunlight and maybe a little bit more. Most of the small and medium height ones are not invasive and grow slowly enough to keep them in place with little care. They do like to have damp feet. Damp does not mean soggy. Florida rains will usually be enough. Sandy soil plantings should have some good soil mixed in to help with water retention.

Besides the usual plants mentioned and the popular Boston fern, Birds Nest and Asparagus ferns that are soil and or container plants, there are ferns like the epiphytes, which like being attached to trees, including the wondrous Staghorn fern that thrives when attached to a board with a bit of sphagnum moss.

The Staghorn will thrive for many many years. It is not uncommon to see this mature plant hanging by a heavy chair from a large oak.

And, yes, you can feed it bananas. Just lay a banana peel across the top of a frond. A whole banana is OK but then you may find you have attracted some critters to the fruit.

The Garden Club of Cape Coral has had several donation calls from Cape residents who need to have there large Staghorn removed. The club will then carefully detach the pup from the parent plant and place it onto a board and sell it at our annual plant sale.

The pups are a section of two antler size leaves with a soft brown bark section that can be careful sliced of with a sterile knife.

Remember to plant walkway ferns about 2 feet from walkway as they will spread out as they grow. Ferns cover up plain solid concrete walls and can be a great soft wall of green behind some colorful flowers. Could feed a bed once a year. An old fern bed may need some cleaning out, but there no special trimming needed.

Great for Snowbirds. Ferns do not blow away and can stand some wet for a few days, after tropical storms.

There are very tall ferns and, of course, the Fiddlehead Ferns. These are not the best for our Tropical/Sub Tropical areas in South Florida.

Last call for the Annual Caladium Festival in Lake Placid, Fla. The last two days are Saturday and Sunday, July 28 & 29. Just about two hours from our area. A real outdoor festival, strawberries and ice cream, outside programs, fresh grown Caladiums, and free entry.

There is also a free bus ride for viewing the actual Caladium fields nearby. Check the computer and enjoy.

Stay cool till we meet again

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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