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Platycerium spp.

Pronunciation: Plat-ee-sir-ee-um
Family: Polypodiaceae (the polypody fern family)
Common Name: Staghorn fern, elkhorn fern
Plant Type:
  • epiphyte, terrestrial
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
  • 40 to 30ºF ZONE 10
  • 50 to 40ºF ZONE 11
Sun Exposure:
  • full shade
  • part sun
Bloom Description: Usually called staghorn or elkhorn ferns, they are characterized by large, flattened bifurcate or trifurcate fronds that seem to erupt from their bases in all directions. Staghorn ferns have two distinct kinds of fronds: large antler shaped green fronds which are forked and spreading, upright or pendulous; and rounded or kidney shaped (usually brown) fronds which are overlapped like scales, and form a "nest" around the base of the plant.
Propagation: For those species of platycerium that grow in clumps, you can start new plants from the small "pups" that grow among the fronds at the base of the plant. Nonclumping species such as p. Grande can only be propagated from spores and this can be quite a difficult undertaking.
Notes for Identification: Staghorn ferns are grown on a moisture retentive medium such as tree bark, osmunda fern root or sphagnum moss, usually in hanging containers or mounted on wall planters. In frost free climates they can be attached to trees. Staghorn ferns are best suited to greenhouse cultivation, but can be grown in the home if water is supplied regularly. In south and central florida they are often grown in containers suspended beneath a large tree. Staghorn ferns can grow to enormous size, even with little care, and a large specimen is truly impressive.    staghorn ferns are epiphytes, using trees for support only; they do not obtain nourishment or water from the host tree as would a parasite - see dodder (cuscuta spp) for an example of true parasitic plant. Photosynthesis takes place in the green fronds just like any ordinary plant leaf. But the overlapping brown fronds near the base of the staghorn fern serve to trap falling debris such as dead insects and pieces of plant material; this is where the fern gets its minerals and other nutrients that most plants would get through their roots from the soil.
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