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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Maidenhair Fern

This might seem like a rather pathetic wee weed to many of you looking at it - but to me it's a miracle and I am protecting this plant like it was one of my own !
This, in fact, is a Maindenhair Fern, Adiantum capillus-veneris or DĂșchosach.
I can remember my great granny and a great great aunt having these in their houses, as tropical house plants, trailing delicately down over their sideboards or dressers.
The maidenhair fern grows in subtropical and tropical regions of the world, in moist habitats such as in Africa, parts of America (north and south) and eastern Asia. It also grows in Ireland on the Burren and also in places on the Aran Islands.
It is not a common plant in Ireland and only grows in these 2 places (which are next to each other). There it grows only occasionally in crevices sheltered from the wind and which have continual water running through them, in its own little micro eco-system, sub tropical in Ireland...
I am extremely lucky, I live on the edge of the Burren, and the plants that grow on the Burren also mostly grow in my fields and rocks etc. I have an old dry stone wall which is part of my wood shed, and here I have 3 maidenhair ferns growing in the cracks, kind of like bonsai maidenhair ferns. There are also 2 other kinds of ferns growing in the same bit of wall.
Now I feel honoured enough that the rare little ferns decide to grow near my house so that I can see them, but something even more amazing happened this summer.
I have a very small collection of tropical flowers/house plants on a table here in my office. There were 2 orchids and 1 other plant with grows on trees in a similar way to orchids, in tropical regions. The one plant that I can't remember the name of, produced 2 babies and I was waiting until they grew big enough to separate, before re-potting all 3.
One day in mid summer I noticed a bit of a green fleck on the soil in under the cluster of plants (the ones I can't remember the name of) and thought nothing of it as weeds grow everywhere here, including indoors where I have potted stuff up etc.
A few weeks later the speck and grown a tiny bit and I was about to pull it out when something made me look closer. I thought it looked like a baby maidenhair fern, but assuming this was impossible as the plant had been indoors in that pot for almost 5 years and there was no way a maidenhair fern spore could have grown.
A couple months later there was no doubt, I had a baby maidenhair fern growing out from under another plant in my office. The only possible explanation is that the fern spores floated in the nearby window (I have all windows open all summer) and by some miracle landed in that particular pot whose conditions exactly matched what the baby fern needed (wet soil, shelter and continual water - the pot stands on small stones which are always sunk in water).
A couple weeks ago I felt it was big enough and I was brave enough to re-pot it. And the above photo is the result !
Since then it has sprouted new shoots and seems to be growing very fast. I am so chuffed and feel so honoured to have this very special fern decide to come live in my house.

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