epiphytic fern native to southern Australia; of the genus platycerium do belong some ferns, all epiphytic, diffused in Australia and in southern Africa; in the wild, they develop on the trunk of tall trees, at the bifurcation of the branches, reaching conspicuous dimensions; the specimens cultivated in pot have leaves usually not longer than 40-70 cm, there are cultivars with a particularly compact appearance.
The leaves of the platycerium bifurcatum are of two types: at the base of the head develop sterile branches, roundish in shape, tend to form a narrow cup-shaped container, in which nature deposits rainwater and organic debris from other trees; with the passage of time these branches accumulate, giving rise to a spongy structure, which retains moisture.
From the base of sterile foliage depart the fertile foliage, erect or drooping, from the particular shape lobed, reminiscent of the horns of the elk, on the bottom page you can find the spores. The colour of the leaves of the platycerium bifurcatum depends on the amount of light they receive: plants placed in a dark place tend to become very dark, while the leaves of plants grown in bright light are light. The leaves have a slightly fleshy consistency, are quite rigid and leathery.
This variety is also known as Alicorne or deer horned fern.
The alicorne plants are grown in a well-luminous place, far from direct sunlight; in fact, the deer antlers ferns can bear even unfavourable light conditions, such as shade or even direct sunlight, but only if provided gradually. They are cultivated with a minimum temperature of 10°C, even if they might bear short periods of frost, but with damages to the foliage.
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Contrary to the majority of ferns, the platycerium bifurcatum they do not need too frequent watering, and can bear without problems even prolonged periods of drought; from March to September we should water only when the soil is dry, being careful not to moisten the base of the leaves of the fern with deer antlers; during the winter months we should water the Alicorne plants sporadically.
To keep the foliage of Alicorne healthy it is best to ensure a well-ventilated position, and frequently spray the canopy with demineralized water. Two to three times a year we can dilute a small amount of fertilizer for green plants in the water of the watering plants.
A soil for epiphytic plants is used to plant the deer horned fern specimens, consisting of plant fibres, sphagnum peat and small pieces of bark; they are usually grown in hanging baskets.
Plants of this type are growing rather quickly and should be repotted in early spring, choosing a larger and larger container.
These plants all propagate by spores or by division of the heads in spring. Often small plants develop at the base, which can be detached from the main stolon, to repot them individually.
Deer antlers fern, Alicorne – Platycerium bifurcatum: Pests and diseases
The most common parasite is cochineal. To eliminate the problem, if not widespread, it is possible to intervene with a cloth or cotton with alcohol, manually removing the parasites. If the infestation is consistent, it is advisable to use special insecticide products.
Plants grown in constantly moist soil can develop harmful root rot.
- Beautiful ferns, with an elegant appearance, and deer antlers ferns are called in Latin platycerium, and come from the
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