Woodwardia orientalis gone wild!

thefreddo(Redwoods in CA)August 9, 2012

I haven't been watching lately, but the recent heat made my Woodwardia orientalis go crazy with the biggest plantlets I've ever seen, after having it for almost ten years. In the past the babies were much shorter and shaped more like a ping-pong paddle.

Hey, tropical thought... I hope yours is doing the same thing. I know we've both been patient about it.

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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I just logged in here to report that he had died. So, I divided it. The roots were very sickly. It still could not live, so I put it in the semi hot compost bin. I was sorting compost and it had made some growth in the bin. I replanted both parts. One I think is showing some growth. It made a leaf, but the leaf did not turn green. Then it began to look a big more green. One half is more likely to live then the other half. The key thing is can it live through the winter?
I took great care of it, but I believe the damage was done by it being so pot bound by the arboretum. It has a big root system and can not tolerate a small pot like they had it in. That is why it looks so bad, that no one bought it but me. It was looking very poorly when I bought it, but it was the only one they had.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 11:06AM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Thats fabulous!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:47PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

It is still alive, both pieces are doing better, so now I have two of them. I just don't know if the root is improved yet. I can't see the root unless I dig it up. A fern can be making leaves, but if the root is sickly the fern will still die. I am not sure it is out of woods, since I can't see the root. It is very frustrating. I check it many times a day. This is a hard fern to find and replace if it dies. It is better to have two as insurance if one dies.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 7:43PM
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mark4321_gw

I just bought one of these at Strybing (SF Botanical Garden). It's extremely cool!

Here's a picture of the plant, which was $12, I think in a 2 gallon pot:

Strybing was selling at least 2 plants. The other plant that I saw had a frond with bulbils/plantlets that were much more developed. The plantlets were yellow/orange/bronze colored. I didn't really capture it here:

I removed 3 pinnae from my plant and I'm going to try propagating it. I don't know if these are mature enough for it to succeed, but I figured I would try anyway. I laid the pinnae on top of moist peat/perlite in an enclosed container (i.e. very high humidity). I was told at Strybing that if one waits, the plantlets will fall off eventually. I decided I would try anyway, with what I have at the moment. Hopefully the bulbils themselves are mature enough, and they can leaf out more under these conditions.

If these fail I will of course try some more mature ones. I'll follow up with my results.

If anyone has any suggestions as to how to propagate these please let me know.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:51PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

That is just what I got, and I got to warn you that plant is messed up. They can't fit into such a small pot. It will be very hard to make it live after transplanting and now it is closer to winter so it will be even harder.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 8:19PM
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mark4321_gw

Actually, I thought the pot was huge. It was difficult lugging that 2 gallon pot back to my car, along with 3 other 1 gallon plants. It's not on my list of plants that need larger pots. The plant looks great and I'm confident it will do well. I see hundreds of backup plants as well.

These are beautiful plants and I'm happy to have gotten one.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:43AM
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tropicbreezent

I like ferns that piggyback baby ones on their fronds, they look rather neat. I bought one recently, Diplazium proliferum. Bit small yet, and had a hard trip home. Took several days in very hot weather and most of the fronds shrivelled. But a new one is unfurling so shouldn't be long and it will be back to its glory and growing bigger. The babies on this one form on the rachis rather than on the leaflets.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 4:47AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

The problem is although there are so called baby ferns, it is hard to get those out and make them live. It can exist in that pot, but won't look healthy. I don't know how long it can exist in the small pot either. I had those baby ferns, I could not make them live. If you do some internet research you will see they are really big plants. I am not just making this up to mess with you. Mine almost did not live after I transplanted. I took it out of the pot and they roots were all sickly and mostly dead. It start to grow a bit, then all growth stopped, and it was dead for a few months. It had no leaves all they all died and no new leaves were generated. It would be ideal to keep this plant inside a greenhouse for the winter and then move it outside as it is not liking cold weather. If the greenhouse was big enough it could stay there in a bigger pot, but the transplant is very difficult to achieve. I am in your same zone sunset 17 or zone 10 in san francisco.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:24AM
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mark4321_gw

I plan to try a number of things to propagate the bulbils. I doubt it is impossible. Perhaps I will need to wait until they are more leafed out, although in principle a bulbil with a leaf should be fine. It's certainly easier and quicker than spores. One frond with bulbils/plantlets is somewhat twisted around, so that the bulbils face the ground anyway. So I have a ton to take there without even affecting the appearance of the plant.

I think the plant is fine in this pot for a while. The leaves are big, but the plant is not. I am aware the leaves can potentially get even bigger. I see no reason why the dimensions of the leaves per se should really be a huge factor as far as necessary pot size. The bulk of the plant, as well as the size of the rhizome and roots should be important. I don't see a problem there, and I would welcome comments from those with more experience growing ferns.

Here are a couple closeup shots so people can judge the new growth and an get a sense as to the size of the rhizome relative to the pot size. Sticking a finger in, the soil seems pretty loose.

The newest frond:

A closeup of the pot. Note that the plant will soon send up another frond. Also note the pine needles, suggesting the plant was grown outside at Strybing.

This is a plant which is typically rated as zone 8-10. Perhaps this is too generous, and perhaps this particular strain was from a warm part of the plant's range. Still, San Francisco isn't exactly a cold or seasonal climate, and I have no expectation that some nights in the 30s will be a problem. The thing is, San Francisco IS like a cool/cold greenhouse, and if you are not making use of this by growing the plants that can't be grown elsewhere you are missing out. This will likely be one of my plants that is most tolerant of the cold.

A San Francisco "winter" means the average temps drop from 65-70/55 to 55-60/45, with no frost in a typical winter. Most plants that are not true tropicals are OK with this. It's possible some wild populations of Woodwardia orientalis in Taiwan don't normally get such "cold" in the wild. Those in Japan should.

I'm in San Carlos, so zone 9b bordering on 10a (25 miles South of San Francisco to those not in the area). Our climate is colder in Winter than San Francisco (by maybe 5 degrees, only at night) and warmer in Summer (by about 10 degrees, only in the day). My major concern climate wise for this plant is not the temperatures, but the sun. I was warned to avoid hot afternoon sun. This plant is right now in a pretty dark corner that does get some sun, only in the late afternoon, and filtered.

I've bought many, many plants at Strybing and never gotten an unhealthy one. I've certainly bought some scraggly ones, that leafed out more shortly. I have bought some I didn't/couldn't provide the proper conditions for, and they died. Actually, I can only think of one or two that fit that description. The people who work as volunteers tend to be among the most knowledgeable people out there on their particular subject. Many are well-known internationally. I don't know any of the fern propagators personally, but I do know many others there. There is zero motivation to sell a "bad" plant, as they are not in it for the money. The price of the plants tends to be ridiculously low. If they didn't think a plant was top quality, they would compost it, not sell it.

That said, they are a top botanical garden, and some of their plants can be difficult to grow. The impression I was given with this plant is that selecting an appropriate location is key.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 3:44PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Mine was a bad plant. It had a lot of that browning on the stems and the stems were weak. I transplanted it and it put out new growth, but that growth was also sickly looking. I trimmed away the brown parts. I wish I had saved a photo of how bad it looked. Then it stopped growing. I could not get it to make any leaves. All the leaves were dead. The plant was just a lump of a crown. I dug it up and the roots were all rotten. I composted it. It came to life in the compost bin. I replanted it. Now I am seeing healthy looking leaves, but I don't know about the condition of the roots, but I am thinking it must be improved. I never trust what they say about zones. They say zone 8, but that is not really what you get in real life. I have had plant that was supposed to be good to 30 below that die from cold. This fern is supposed to go dormant in the cold, the problem is it may not come back. I don't know if mine went dormant or what happened. The compost pile is very warm. If the plant is not in tip top shape and well established it is more likely to not survive. Growers like to push the limits of zone so they can sell you more plants that may not live. I have the photos on my flickr account, same user name. I am going to post the new photos of how I brought this plant back to life. All of that browning, I can see on yours was like mine, but mine was worse. It could be a fungal disease. Ferns can actually get diseases such as a crown rot.

Here is a link that might be useful: This was after I trimmed the bad leaves off

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:12AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

We just had the cold weather. I covered my fern up. I am hoping for the best. I read they will lose the fronds in cold weather. The question is will they come back in the spring? I won't know until the spring.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 11:12AM
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mark4321_gw

It has indeed cooled down. We had two nights of 46 at my location, and the forecast here for tonight is for 41. The last couple days it has not even made it above 60. Our climate is more harsh than San Francisco, 25 miles to the North, with more summer heat and more winter cold. However I think even in SF the temperature dropped below 50 this morning, and the forecast is for 46 tonight there. I gave a link at the bottom to the weather this year at SF Airport, which has a climate intermediate between the two locations.

My plant continues to do well. Here is a photo taken today. The main change that you can see is that the orange/bronze new growth has turned mostly green:

The offsets/bulbils on the leaves have also turned less bronze.

The bulbils inside are sending out roots. These are on perlite:peat in an enclosed (very high humidity) environment. Two of the brown roots are indicated by red arrows, although there are other roots visible in the photo. The offsets inside are starting to put out a second frond. Unfortunately it's not apparent in this photo.

Offsets/bulbils that I detached and put on moist long-fiber sphagnum also look fine, although they seem to have less root development.

I've been really meaning to start more bulbils/offsets inside. It looks like they do well when left attached to fragments of the frond.

Here is a link that might be useful: Weather at SF Airport during 2012

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 3:48PM
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thefreddo(Redwoods in CA)

We got down to maybe 36 degrees, but nothing to worry about. One of my Woodwardia orientalis has been in an unheated greenhouse and the other at the base of a redwood tree for many years, and they've never been frost damaged even with temps in the 20's sometimes. There's protection for them, but that doesn't mean it doesn't get cold.

I think the key is to make sure they have root room, some sun (morning sun is usually safe, the more sun, the more water), good drainage (they like hanging baskets, and look better because their fronds hang down), and most of all, growing season heat.

The picture is from a few minutes ago of the same frond in the original post.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:05PM
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thefreddo(Redwoods in CA)

Though I attached this pic... Here it is:

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:06PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I had have ferns that would look ok, but secretly be dead. You won't know until it makes new growth. Once growth stops they can just sit there, and it takes a long time before they begin to rot. Winter is the time in which this will happen. Once you get to spring and you are seeing new growth you can safely say, it made it past winter. It is just too early to tell if a fern is going to make it.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 4:21PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

The biggest problem with my Woodwardia orientalis is it's stubborn refusal to put out new fronds. The number of fronds is very limited to begin, and sometimes it just won't create any new fronds. It will grow things that look like they could be new fronds beginning, but they just stay at the budding stage without unfurling. This seems to have something to do with cold. We have a cold summer. I had this problem in the summer and now it's winter. My other ferns put out new fronds very quickly. Some have to be trimmed because they get over grown with too many fronds.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:17AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I got a reptile heating rock and put in on the ground near the crowns of the fern. Since I did this the heat has stimulated each of the mounds to begin to make one more frond each. If I can get enough growth and the root balls are established by next year, I think it will survive. Once it is big and well established, it won't be as cold vulnerable. I also treated it with sulfur power to increase the acidity of the soil.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:11AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Mine is ok, so far, it has been cold, but it seem like it is not going to die back. How are yours going?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 9:07AM
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thefreddo(Redwoods in CA)

It's too late to get a picture today, but my plant in the greenhouse has 2 big croziers shooting straight up on it. The greenhouse is unheated, and we've been getting a number of nights just below freezing, about 30F outside. There were 2 nights with 27F.

Another surprise is after all the cold my Orchid is blooming.

I started a bunch of the bulbils in a tray. They're on the handrail of my covered porch, and seem to keep growing, although like my other exotic Woodwardias they're slow. I have radicans and unigemmata outside here, too.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 8:59PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Well it has been super bad cold. I got my Woodwardia orientalis covered with a compost bin and a reptile heating rock. So far it has no damage, but Woodwardia fimbriata has some slight browning of the leaves in some parts, but that is a very healthy fern and not sickly, mainly because it is older and more native. I think it is a Ca native fern. I think if Woodwardia orientalis lives to next winter it won't have to be covered anymore, but I read they die back in the winter.

I had found this somewhere online in my massive internet search to save this fern when it all brown during the San Francisco cold summer.

The downside of this Woodwardia? Wayside has it listed as a zone 6-9 fern, but here in my zone 8b garden, many of the fronds (which are supposed to be evergreen) die back in the winter, and when I looked around, sites (such as Plant Delights) have it listed as a zone 8-10 fern. (I suppose Wayside gets away with this because they don't claim that it is evergreen - so perhaps in the colder zones it will survive, but will completely die back in the winter). While some of the fronds remain evergreen in my garden, about 50% of them die back - resulting in long (2-3 foot) fronds that need to be removed, otherwise they distract from the beauty of the plant.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:46AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Each fern had one new crozier and each one died. It turned black, but over all the plant looks healthy and the cold has passed for now.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 7:38PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

This is the first day of spring and the fern is looking good.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:11PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Here it is again, but actually since I did divide it one of the two refuses to make any new fronds, so maybe one of them died? But one is better then none. I do a lot composting if you noticed the soil is very rich.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 10:42PM
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mark4321_gw

Here's my plant as of today. It's put out a couple new fronds recently that I thought at first had aborted. However, they were fine--it seems the plant can strangely look that way sometimes.

The little bulbils are doing fine, although they are still small. I need to transition them to ambient humidity and move some or all outside. I also need to split up the ones in the upper pot.

I have seen a plant or plants(?) for sale at the Strybing Arboretum shop that is open daily. I believe it was again $12.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 6:26PM
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mark4321_gw

Here's my plant as of today. It's put out a couple new fronds recently that I thought at first had aborted. However, they were fine--it seems the plant can strangely look that way sometimes.

The little bulbils are doing fine, although they are still small. I need to transition them to ambient humidity and move some or all outside. I also need to split up the ones in the upper pot.

I have seen a plant or plants(?) for sale at the Strybing Arboretum shop that is open daily. I believe it was again $12.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 6:28PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

cool, the other one is dead, but one is alive you know, so I feel good about that. I got mine there also. I am pretty sure one is dead, I stuck in the compost bin a few days ago, and I just check it, no sign of sprouting again.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 7:02PM
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mark4321_gw

This is what happened to the first bulbils that I left attached to a piece of a frond and incubated at high humidty on top of peat/perlite. They have some fungal friends (white and yellow)... I'm transitioning these to lower humidity.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 5:04PM
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thefreddo(Redwoods in CA)

I set some bulbils in soil with a dab of rooting hormone back near the time I started this thread, and here's what they look like today. The starts were a single frond with each bulbil. They've been covered, but outside.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 5:44PM
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mark4321_gw

An update on some of the bulbils, which have become little plants. Here are the same ones as before. I don't think the color has changed, it's just a better picture:

Here's just the 3 inch pot, from near the top of the previous photo:

I separated the plants from that pot:

I potted up individually the plants i the top row, and about half in the middle row. The rest I combined into a couple pots to grow a little more. I'd like to transition many of those that I potted up singly so that they can grow outside soon.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 3:58PM
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