Saturday, 15 November 2014

The patter of tiny ferns ...


About eighteen months ago I bought an envelope of fern spores from 'The British Pteridological Society' stand, at Tatton Park RHS Show, for £1only, intending to produce squillions of luscious ferns. The enthusiasts on the stand were really helpful and full of good advice. I followed the instructions they gave me carefully (or so I thought) and sowed the spores on the surface of sterile compost, and then put the seed tray in a sealed bag. After a couple of months I checked for signs of any  progress and found the compost covered in a sort of lumpy moss, so ... I threw it out!


When I was at Tatton again this year, I revisited the B.P. Society stand to discuss what went wrong. Turns out, nothing went wrong, and I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The lumpy moss was actually the developing ferns, at a stage of their development when they are termed Prothalli !! Who would have guessed it . 


So I decided to try again and bought 2 packets of spores this time -'Braun's Shield fern' (Polystichum Braunii) and 'Dickins's Wood Fern' (Dryopteris Dickinsii). I chose these varieties as they were recommended for being comparatively easy to grow. 'The British Pteridological Society' have produced a fantastic step by step guide with photos, so I felt more confident of success this time.

I  posted in summer about the process of sowing the spores in ''A ferny thing happened ...', if you care to find out more, but the basic premise is that the spores are sown on the surface of newly sterilised compost. Once sown they are kept in a sealed bag to keep moisture in and bacteria, chance seeds etc out.

When I spoke to the very nice people on the stall they said that it could take a while for germination to occur, but that patience was the watchword, so I put my 2 seed trays in the greenhouse, and left them to get on with germination unhindered .

After a couple of months, the surface of the 'Shield Fern' compost just looked as if it was covered with a fine green film, but that began to grow into what I believe are fernlets or, more correctly, Prothalli ! Yes, we have the patter of tiny ferns ! Babies ! Only Shield Fern babies though, as the Dickins's Wood Fern compost remains a sea of brown.



Shied Fern prothalli
My instruction leaflet informs me that it is best to leave them undisturbed at this stage, so that is what I plan to do. Just sit with my feet up and watch them grow...



34 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Jessica. Reading the instructions certainly pays dividends!

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  2. I'm impressed :) (I get intimidated by basic flower seeds!) It's wonderful to see you started the ferns successfully - best of luck as they grow on!

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    1. Thanks Amy. It is my favourite bit of gardening - I love the propagation side of things and like nothing better than a good potter in my greenhouse.

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  3. Very interesting! I had no idea. I suppose some of the green stuff growing in my garden that I though was moss is probably fern babies. ;-) Nifty.

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    1. Ha ha ! Now we know what they look like !

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  4. I'm enthused now to give this a try myself Jane! It's rather exciting seeing all those 'little ferns'.

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    1. Hi Mark & Gaz, go on, give it a go - we could even get a 'Ferny' meme going, and get other bloggers growing them too !

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  5. I once grew some tiny ferns from spores produced by a house plant, The got to tiny fern stage and then died off so maybe I should have left them longer before potting up.We do have a few in the garden which seem to manage to do their thing naturally in secret. You look as though you have lots growing so I hope they grow strongly and look forward to seeing them develop.

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    1. Hi Sue, I think the next stage is fairly vital, as they need to be left undisturbed to get established, apparently. They can stay where there are until spring!

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  6. Do you have a picture of the adult Dickin's Wood Fern? Google is quite rattled by the term and throwing up the oddest results none of which have anything to do with ferns, except for your blog which comes up 1, 2, and 3. I'd love something different in my fern friendly locale.

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  7. Hi Susan, if you google the Latin name, Dryopteris Dickinsii, you will see lots of examples.

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  8. A most informative post Jane. I have considered growing ferns but there seems to be something almost esoteric about growing from spores which has put me off. Will have to give it a go. I look forward to reading more about your fern babies come spring.

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    1. Hi Anna, I don't think I would have had the confidence if it hadn't been for the step by step leaflet, which had photos too! It made it seem very straightforward.

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  9. How exciting!! At this point, I'd be obsessing and checking them every 30 minutes with a magnifying glass!! I'm looking forward to seeing them grow!

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    1. Hi Flower Freak - that is JUST what I do ! I have to fight the urge to propel about with them - just as I have to fight the urge to pull up cuttings to check if they have rooted !

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  10. Hi Jane..so exiting & interesting. I never sow ferns by spores before. I just bought the fresh one at the nursery.Hope it's growing well in your garden!

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    1. Hi Normala - this is my first time, and it has been really interesting. I just hope they survive! I hope your nursery fern does well for you!

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  11. Well done! I am very impressed. Although I love propagating anything I can get my hands on, I always imagined that spores were beyond me. Maybe I will give it a try next year.

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    1. Hi Chloris, go on give it a try! Just think of all those ferns for free !

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  12. How fascinating! Congratulations - nurture those babies with your feet up and a good book on building ferneries.

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    1. Hi Sarah, it has been an interesting process, and I just hope I can get them through their childhood and adolescence without mishap!!

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  13. How exciting is this!!! Their beginnings are so outstanding....I can't wait to see how they grow and change! Have fun watching and what a lovely blog you have here! Nicole

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    1. Hi Nicole and thanks for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit! I hope the baby ferns continue to grow as they are doing now.

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  14. Well done for being so patient, it is one of my failings that if seed doesn't germinate within a reasonable time I just through the it onto the compost heap, I'm sure I must have missed lots of good plants because of this.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean! I tend to throw out the seed compost + ungerminated seeds onto my greenhouse bed,and then I am often surprised months later by young plants I just can't identify!

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  15. Well done you! It pays to be patient, I would imagine that most beginners did exactly what you did first time around!

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    1. Hi Pauline, that is reassuring! I thought I would be the only one to do anything as daft as that!

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  16. This is fascinating. I've heard about how ferns grow and have been tempted to try them before but it's nice to see how someone else is getting on first. I had no idea it could take months. Patience is indeed the key word!

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    1. Hi Marguerite, go on ... have a go ! All you need is patience ! It has been fascinating to learn about the process and hopefully I may have lots of baby ferns to plant out one day!

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  17. I have never grown ferns from spores. it looks so interesting and challenging. I only grow common variety of ferns that I took it from road side or wood. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Endah, you are right, it really has been interesting, but, honestly, not challenging at all! I bet your roadside ferns are lovely! Mine are a native variety.

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  18. Congratulations on your success! I look forward to seeing what happens next!

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  19. If ever you are lying in bed in the quiet and all of a sudden you hear a gnawing sound or the sound of something scurrying along the floor boards in the ceiling there is a big chance that you have mice. Unfortunately, where there is one mouse there are inevitably more, especially if they have found a food source.

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