Name of a fern that grows in the south

debbiep_gwJuly 15, 2009

No picture but it is a fern that grows in the south,you can find it a lot at old farm homesteads.It grow about 2 1/2 to 3ft tall and no foliage at the base,it grows upright.The top is very dark green and is lacy,airy.It possibly may have some thorns on the stems but not many.Its not bracken fern as someone suggested on another forum.It reminds me of asparagus growing.For some reason I keep thinking it starts with a S.TIA..Debbie

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Perhaps Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri', or Sprenger's Asparagus Fern, a native of South Africa is not really a fern at all. Or could be Asparagus plumosus, which has thorns for sure.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Thanks,but those are not it.There is no foliage but at the top of the plant,its just a stalk that shoots up and the top is lacy,airy.Its similar to ferns that are used in florist arrangements.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 6:59PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Maidenhair fern?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 1:16AM
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Possibly Thelypteris terrasiana?

Do they look like thgis when they come up?

And this when they grow up?
Maiden Mariana is the common name.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 7:48AM
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Is that your colony of ferns?
I believe what you have, is the same fern I obtained as Marianas Maiden Fern, Thelypteris torresiana, but later was determined to be a Bramble Fern, Hypolepis repens.
They are almost identical, but the Bramble Fern is more aggressive (read: invasive!) than the Marianas Maiden Fern, which has a short creeping rootstock.

Several years ago, I shipped a bundle of those Ferns to a botanical garden in Ft. Worth, TX, as Thelypteris torresiana. I never determined if they correctly identified them or if they are still growing them as they were labeled!

I give lots of them to fellow gardeners, but always with the caveat; Plant at your own risk!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 9:31AM
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No,its not any of those.Other than saying it looks somewhat like asparagus(vegetable)I can't think of other way to describe it.We have all those ferns down here to though,very pretty picture.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 2:01PM
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I do grow this fern(the ones pictured aren't mine though) and it came to me from Sauls labeled T. torresiana, and yes it is extremely agressive but, easily controled with a simple yank. I don't think it is Hypolepis repens which, is pictured below.

Here's a little article about them:

There is a fern that has appeared, out of the blue so to speak, within this century. I dare predict that it will occur in every Louisiana parish by the end of the century. This fern is, of course, Thelypteris torresiana. It has been found in most of the counties of Arkansas in the Western Gulf Coastal Plain to the outskirts of Little Rock.

The older fern guides do not mention it. In doing a bit of research for this article, [I found] Dr. John W. Thieret's, Louisiana Fern and Fern Allies says that it was found in 1967 in Louisiana. The specific epithet is torresiana from Luis de Torres. He uses the common name "Torres Fern" instead of "Mariana Fern." It was first described from the Mariana Islands in the tropical South Pacific. It is much hardier than an origin such as the Mariana Islands would suggest. In this country, it was first found in Florida in 1906. Since then, it has become a firmly entrenched species in the Southeastern Flora. Hopefully, it won't become as weedy in Louisiana as the Japanese climbing fern, Lygodium japonicum, which is found in every parish in Louisiana. In spite of its weediness, it is so unique and desireable it is widely cultivated. Thieret lists T. torresiana as growing naturally in nineteen parishes. His book was published in 1980. Dr. Dale Thomas in his Volume I of Atlas of the Vascular Flora of Louisiana (with Dr. Charles M. Allen) enlarges the range to 24 parishes. This was published in 1993. The fern is spreading its range.

In the garden, it is a beautiful fern. I have heard it said that "it is the most beautiful" to "one of the finest." At this time, everyone agrees that it is garden worthy. In response to all inquiries about, no one has lost their garden plants due to last summer's drought or the severe winter blasts.

It was a bit late in coming into foliage in the spring. It has 3-pinnate fronds that are constantly growing from unfurling fiddleheads all during the growing season. The fronds are a bright light yellowish-green. The structure of the entire plant calls to my mind as a miniature tree fern. Heights can vary from at least 24 inches to 30 inches tall and almost as wide. It is tall and airy in its grace. This fern grows well in acidic sandy soils in just ordinary loam, especially in disturbed areas.

That brings up my first encounter with the fern. On a field trip in southern Ashley County, Arkansas about 10 years ago, I was taken to see if I could identify a "rare" fern. The plants were growing in a moist area at the edge of the bridge abutment. It was perhaps six feet below the bridge, on the lower side of a blackberry patch. To get a better view, I walked on the bridge and stepped off the central runners that ran the length of the bridge. When I did, the rotten boards of the bridge flooring fell under my weight, leaving me dangling by the armpits. Fortunately, no one was hurt; the bridge remained passable, and everyone had a good laugh. The sight of the fern left a lingering image. Somewhere I had seen that fern. Later, I found out where. When my brothers and I settled up the estate, some log haulers hauled out some logs and in so doing, a small area was badly disturbed. Some fern sporelings that I could not identify came up in the area. These were Thelypteris torresiana plants coming into size large enough to be identified. Some plants remain in the area to this day. The area is a bit drier than where Royal Fern and Cinnamon Fern would grow. There is no greater thrill than finding a new plant and especially so when it is on your property. I have found it to be easily transplanted and I have shared many plants to interested friends. It remains lovely until the above-ground parts are killed by frosts. It is not an evergreen fern, but I rate it as a leading fern for the garden.

As a footnote to my experiences with Thelypteris torresiana, we must all adapt to changes in scientific names. David L. Jones' book, Encyclopaedia of Ferns, printed in Australia, where Jones lives and works, uses the name Macrothelypteris torresiana for this fern. Never a dull moment in the study of botany! Carl Amason is a superior plantsman who gardens near Calion, Ark.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 4:56PM
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Oh my golly! That is a big fern! I love it! I want it! (Probably won't grow here.) Back to the original topic, the "aggressive" ferns shown and mentioned further above -- I have them and they are, indeed, crazy! They pop up everywhere!!!!!! Luckily, I can walk by and easily yank them out where they don't belong.

But did we ever figure out the name of the fern in the original question?

Another question -- what is the tallest, showiest fern that I could successfully grown in my Marietta garden? Could be in the shady area or more sunny. I have both now. But I would love a show-stopper!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 9:58AM
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The tallest fern that I grow is Southern wood/shield fern - Thelypteris kunthii. In a partially sunny area (which it doesn't mind), it comes all the way up to my hips! It has been featured in Southern Living several times as a lush, partial sun tolerant fern.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 11:02AM
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Thanks!.Its the asparagus plumosa,which esh suggested in the beginning.I'll be back if the person that has it doesn't agree but the plumosa was the one I was thinking about.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 6:57PM
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Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is probably the largest hardy fern you can grow this far north in Georgia.

Now, that's a Fern!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 1:37PM
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The Plumosa Fern has short but, sharp little thorns and has white flowers when they bloom. The flowers will turn into little berries.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 1:42PM
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vroomp, is that a local picture of an ostrich fern? While they get quite big in the northeastern areas of the US, my understanding is that the heat even in North Georgia prevents them from reaching their potential. They would certainly need good moisture.

I just measured the tallest frond on my southern wood fern and it is about 46 inches tall (just shy of 4 feet).

Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) reportedly gets to 5 feet tall, but that would be in a sunny, wet area (ideal conditions for it). Royal fern (Osmunda regalis) would perform similarly, again in moist conditions.

So, bagsmom, you have several to choose from (for largest, showiest), but I do think their height depends on the conditions you provide.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 2:06PM
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ladywindsurfer(Z7 SE)

There is possibly 2 forms of the Ostrich Fern. The ones I have are typically short in stature, 2-3' tall, as most are that I've seen in local gardens.
But there is one large colony in a garden downhill from me, near the creek, that grows up to about 5' tall, as if it were in a northern garden! It's at the foot of a short slope, about 100' from the creek and I'm sure it receives no more moisture than mine.

Several years ago, A fellow gardner in southern MI sent me a box full of the tall ones he grows, but he didn't provide any moisture for the roots and they were so dry upon receipt, I was unable to rehydrate any of them. :o(

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 3:34PM
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in a garden downhill from me, near the creek

I would guess there is water running that way towards the creek.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 4:18PM
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Yes, downhill slopes are moister usually and, with ferns, it seems the more water the larger the ferns get.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 9:10AM
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Asparagus plumosus is synonymous with Asparagus setaceus.

Anyone wanting to see pics, info, there's a good link:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 11:49AM
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