Recently here in the FossilGarden we have been having a bit of a drive to narrow down the fern collection or rather to tighten it up a bit.
When we first started stocking the garden we planted a lot of ferns. In fact we planted any ferns we could conceivably lay our hands on. Over the past 3 years we came to realise that not all of them are that suitable for a small garden like ours. Plants like the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), whilst elegant and really quite beautiful can also be very invasive when you don’t have that much room to play with.
We have also decided that there are a couple of genera of fern that we would love to explore a little more and even specialise in. One of these is Blechnum (said Blek-num).
Blechnum is a huge family of ferns in the eupolypods II clade of the Polypodiales. It contains between 150 and 200 species, depending on which line of thinking you follow, and its greatest area of species diversity is based in the Southern Hemisphere. The feature that stands them apart from other ferns is that they all produce seperate fertile (spore producing) and sterile (photosynthetic) fronds and the fronds are singly pinnate. We grow quite a number of species already: such as the tiny Blechnum penna-marina and the huge Blechnum chilense. We have species such as Blechnum cycadifolium, B. gibbum and B. nudum too but there was one that has been noticeably lacking from the collection for quite a while.
The one that has been on our ‘hit list’ for a so long is Blechnum brasiliense, the dwarf Brazilian tree fern. So you can imagine we jumped at the chance when, our friend, and manager of Seiont nurseries, Neil Alcock asked us if we would like to trial his new selection of Blechnum brasiliense ‘Volcano’.
Blechnum brasiliense is a really smart fern from Brazil (as its name suggests) and Peru. With singly pinnate fronds of up to 30”/75cm long and, in time, a short trunk of about 10”/25cm, you will be able to see why it gets the name ‘Dwarf tree fern’. However it’s the scarlet newly emergent fronds of some plants that attracted us. The plants that are being produced under the name Blechnum brasiliense ‘Volcano’ are sporelings from a very red flushed parent plant and even as small plants in 9cm pots they are showing the amazing red new foliage.
Unfortunately, Blechnum brasiliense isn’t quite as hardy, it will cope with about -3, as other species of Blechnum and as such our little plant of ‘Volcano’ will be spending the winter in our bathroom, alongside a plant of Blechnum gibbum, It will however be living outside until there is a significant risk of frost. We can’t wait for it to be a big plant just like its parent and hopefully it will be joined, in time, by other members of its kin such as Blechnum Palmiforme, the next Blechnum on our eupolypod II ‘hit list’.