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Ferns for sale in the USA (only)
Charles Alford Plants
1645 9th St. S.W.
Vero Beach, FL 32962 USA
The back ground images were
sketched by my farther, Gert Opperman
Pronounced "veitch e eye")
( Written By Roy Vail)
This Platycerium is no doubt named for James Veitch who
founded the Veitch Nursery in Exeter, England, in the late 18th century.
It closed in 1914. The nursery was very active in the early collecting of
orchids in many parts of the world.
Platycerium veitchii, one of the most interesting Platycerium, because it
is a semi-desert species., is native to the state of Queensland, Australia, and
to some off shore islands. Its habitat is on rocks in areas that receive from 15
to 25 inches of rainfall. Two reliable sources told me that the rock faces
on which this fern grows can get to 120 degrees F. I have seen it
thriving, on rocks, with no soil, in bright sun, in places that had received no
rain in two years.
It forms pups readily. A cluster matures into a shape I
call a half basket , open at the top, sides and bottom covered with plants,
but prevented from forming a complete basket by the rock behind it.
I have seen masses of dead shield fronds that were 4 feet tall and 2 feet
across. The rocks I have seen it on were sandstone. Lichens were
common. I believe the spores germinate in the lichens. It is
also found on lava flows.
The fertile fronds of Platycerium veitchii can be nearly white with stellate
hairs. The stomates are sunken into pits. Both of these are
adaptations to semi-desert conditions. Its most striking feature is the long
slender, finger-like extensions that grow from the top edge of the shield
fronds. A fine field botanist, Bruce Gray, told me he believes Platycerium
veitchii requires moisture in the air. I predict it will be shown that
these long tips function in the collection of moisture from dew. The plant
spends energy growing these tips, so it must receive a payback. Water,
from moisture in the air, collecting on these tips as dew drops, then rolling
down into the root mass, is the payback. The tops of clusters of
Platycerium veitchii will often have animal droppings in them, probably wombat.
The plants must be good and safe place for the animals to sleep. I have
seen no signs that other animals depend on Platycerium veitchii.
|Another habitat image by Peter Kerr.
Platycerium veitchii requires much light. It does fine in full sun in
Miami, Florida. Remember to let a shade grown plant get used to the full
sun slowly, or otherwise the sudden change might cause sun burn. Only with high
light will it take its true form, showing fertile fronds that are short,
upright, nearly white, and shield fronds with the tall finger-like extensions.
Although it is a semi-desert Platycerium that can survive dry periods, it should
not be allowed to dry out completely. Platycerium veitchii is also
reasonably cold tolerant, probably able to take a light frost.
The WRONG way to grow Platycerium veitchii is under low light with much water.
It may survive, but the fertile fronds will become long, wide, and may easily
twist at the base, then hang down. The excess water will prevent the
formation of the fingers along the top edge of the shields. (see footnote) As
with all cluster forming Platycerium, I recommend leaving the pups together with
the main plant because this allows the group to form a cluster that shows the
more natural shape.
Platycerium veitchii is closely related to Platycerium bifurcatum. The
hobbyist labels on Platycerium were a real mess until 1964 when Barbara Joe,
(now Barbara Joe Hoshizaki) published her classic paper "A Review of the Species
of Platycerium." Some of the plants brought in from Australia in those
days were labeled "Green Veitchii." They were Platycerium
bifurcatum. However, in every large group of Platycerium veitchii I have
seen in Australia, there were a few clusters that looked more like Platycerium
bifurcatum than I would like to admit. Dr. Joe Holtum at James Cook University
in Townsville, Queensland, http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/tbiol/Botany/staff/jamh.htm
has taken enough interest in Platycerium veitchii to have three of his graduate
students do their Master's thesis on it. His Department has taken scanning
electron microscope pictures of its fertile fronds and has begun DNA studies.
Unfortunately he reports, "Four years work on the veitchii project came to a
screaming halt when the property containing our prime veitchii population was
sold to a gentleman who heartily disliked 'government and university folk'!!
In a very polite but firm manner he indicated to us that the population had
lasted for a long time without any research and he hoped it would continue to do
so! I am still looking for an accessible population of a decent size."
Their research project had been funded by a grant from the late Platycerium
hobbyist Ralph Hughes, of Fort Myers, Florida. Mr. Hughes is pictured on
the back cover of my Platycerium Hobbyist's Handbook." I would suggest
that Platycerium veitchii should be tissue cultured in quantity for the general
nursery trade. Platycerium bifurcatum cv Netherlands and Platycerium
superbum are the only ones now tissue cultured constantly. Adding
Platycerium veitchii would give the nursery trade a third species to sell, which
is very different from the other two, yet also easy to grow.
- - - - - -
In 1995, during my first trip to Australia, I visited the fascinating gardens of
Reg Locyer in Ravenshoe, Queensland, at the high southern end of the Atherton
tablelands. Ravenshoe is one of the places the Mt. Lewis
Platycerium grows. It can get cool and receives more rain than the lower
northern tablelands. In his front yard, shaded by low trees, was a very
interesting mass of Platycerium veitchii, with long fronds and entire shield
fronds, like Platycerium hillii. He gave me a plant from it, which I
brought back to the U.S.A. in hopes of introducing it to hobbyists here.
Unfortunately it died. Later, in Miami, in the collection of Reggie
Whitehead, I saw a veitchii with the same traits. It had been given to him
by another Miami hobbyist whom I knew. This meant to me that the form
which had died for me was already in collections in the US, and now I could get
another start of it. My second plant lived, but over time reverted to more
typical veitchii. (So did the one of Reggie Whitehead's) My conclusions
were that Reg Locyers' plant, and the Miami plant , had both been grown under
low light with excess water, and that the genetic makeup of Platycerium veitchii
permits the finger-like extensions of the top edge of the shield fronds to
develop from zero to pronounced, depending on how much water it receives.
The trait is very elastic in its expression. It makes one wonder if the same is
also true for the other species of Platycerium,
AND makes one suspect that many of the
so-called cultivars of Platycerium are due only to environmental differences.
This is not true of all cultivars, but Ralph Hughes spent years demonstrating
that it was true for many.