|Friday Five: Florida’s Native Ferns|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Friday, 16 December 2011|
Due to its geography and diverse climate zones, botanists estimate that Florida has 123 native fern and fern-like species, and at least 21 exotic and hybrid (crossbreeding of two species) species, which is far more than any other state in the US (source: University of Florida IFAS Extension). Here’s a look at some of the more southern, and dare I say more exotic, fern species native to Florida. Most are native to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as well.
1. Hand Fern ( Cheiroglossa palmata)
Hand ferns (synonymous with Ophioglossum palmatum) are subtropical and tropical species that are fern-like epiphytes. Growing only in the debris in old leaf bases of sabal palms (like the one pictured here), they used to be a common sight in South Florida. Due to poaching they have been placed on the endangered list.
2. Resurrection Fern (Polypodium polypodioides)
The 6 to 8 inch high resurrection fern grows throughout the southeast and is interesting because of its ability to “resurrect” itself after a rain shower from a dried shriveled state to a lush green one. Here’s a before and after shot of resurrection fern.
3. Wild Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium serratum)
Also known as bird's-nest spleenwort, this fern is often used for habitat restoration and in naturalistic landscaping. Needing high humidity and constant moisture, it grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet. In its native habitat it can be found in hammocks and swamps. It is considered a epiphytic or terrestrial fern and is listed as endangered in Florida.
4. Sword Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Sword fern is also known as the wild Boston fern with fronds up to 36 inches long, it is terrestrial growing in the swamps and forests of central and south Florida. It sometimes is found growing in the trunks of cabbage palms. It is a common species and there are numerous cultivars.
5. Florida Tree Fern (Ctenitis sloanei)
The Florida tree fern is the only tree fern native to the US mainland. Also called red-hair comb fern, it is listed as endangered in Florida.
Ferns for American Gardens
The Ferns of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide
Ferns of tropical Florida & Ferns of Royal Palm Hammock (Reprint edition, original printed 1918)
Photo source: University of Florida IFAS Extension