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Wanted: New Home for Giant Fern

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 23 August 2002

The Dallas fern I had for ten years thrived so well in my house, in spite of neglect, that when I finally killed it I bought two more. One of them had an odd piece, where the fronds were much longer than the rest of the plant: I figured the nursery had fertilized it unevenly, and if I held off on fertilizer, that would eventually wear off.

Instead, the whole plant grew. The Dallas fern is supposed to be a compact plant: the other of the pair is two feet across -- but this one is five.

I love having ferns in the house: this one makes my otherwise stuffy office into a vibrant jungle. But I can't hang it anymore in the north window it likes, because I can't find a support to hang it on, that extends far enough for its width. I put it on top a couple of filing cabinets a few feet from the window; it's taken them over completely and is crowding my computer.

The Dallas fern is a sport (mutation) of the Boston Fern. This one is the size of a Boston, but that variety isn't supposed to have the tolerance for low humidity the Dallas has -- and this has: I've never misted it. Authorities also mention the Dallas' tolerance for neglect, without getting specific -- but I'll confess what this one has coped with.

It goes bone dry frequently. A few fronds yellow; it sends out a lot of thin, fuzzy aerial roots looking for water. I trim all that off, and it does fine.

It's so potbound, that to water it, I keep the pot in a deep dish which I fill with water. Later I come back and fill it again ... and sometimes again. When it finally gets enough, often it's sitting in water for hours more. I don't even bother to empty the dish; the roots haven't rotted from immersion, and the fern eventually drinks it all.

This is terrible treatment! But it looks great. Perhaps it's another sport: as big as the Boston, as tough as the Dallas (or tougher). A wonderful plant -- but where can it go? In some big public building, a church or a school? In your house?

I'll give it to whoever offers the best spot. Send a description, before September 23, to <> or in care of this paper, at P.O. Box 362, Devens, MA 01432.

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For more information

Boston Fern Production Guide — from the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, part of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark