Woodwardia orientalis is my favorite plant in the garden, this week...

My favorite this week is one of several "projects" that I've been working on, small plants that I've started from plantlets, seeds, or spores. I have several Woodwardia orientalis (Oriental chain fern) that I started from plantlets that form on the fronds of mature specimens of this species, which you can see in this photo from Wikipedia:

You can see how thickly these plantlets can grow on the fronds by looking at some of the images on this Google search.

I was looking around yesterday, examining my various young ferns and other plants, and came across what may turn into a rather remarkable fern: a variegated Woodwardia orientalis.

Some of my baby ferns. I know, not very big. The one of interest here is in the center, 3 rows from the back.

Now, I hope you weren't expecting anything huge and impressive, because all of my Oriental chain ferns (and all my baby ferns for that matter) are still in 4-inch pots, and have a ways to go before they even begin to fill those containers. But on discovering the fern below, I couldn't wait to share.

The variegation is most visible at the base of this frond, the first to show variegation. About halfway up is a big patch of glare, not variegation.
It was difficult to photograph because of the glossiness of the fronds. I'm hoping the variegation will become more defined, both as the fronds mature and as the plant grows.
A closer look at the base of the frond, marbled with cream. 
Still hard to see? Let me lift up the frond so the light shines through it instead of glaring off it. Ok, still not the clearest picture, but you can definitely see the variegation, strongest at the base and reducing towards the tip.

Sometimes variegation can appear randomly, on only one leaf, and not continue onto the rest of the plant. Happily, this mutation appears to be continuing. The latest frond, coming directly after the first one to show variegation, also appears to be marbled. I'll have to wait for more fronds to develop to judge the true stability of this mutation. It may be only a part of the crown that carries the variegation and it just happened that two arose from the mutated portion subsequently. If it continues to produce variegated fronds all the way around the plant, I should have a stable mutation, but if I get all-green fronds in a portion of crown, I'll have a fern with multiple personality disorder.
The newest frond, with variegation just visible as subtle pinkish cream marbling.
 So far, so good. Even if this individual plant turns out to be stable, it may not be possible to propagate it. It will depend on whether the plantlets arising from the mature fronds are variegated, as well.

The stats on Woodwardia orientalis:

  • Hardy to USDA zone 8a at least. Possibly lower
  • 2 feet high by 4 feet wide, potentially larger under ideal conditions
  • Prefers light shade, regular water, neutral to slightly acidic soil rich in organic mater
  • Propagate from spores or plantlets produced by mature fronds

Even if it proves unstable, I live for surprises like this. That's why this Woodwardia orientalis is my favorite plant in the garden this week.

The favorite plant in the garden meme is hosted by Loree of Danger Garden. Be sure to follow the link to see her favorite and check the comments to see what other bloggers are admiring in their gardens this week.


  1. I'm impressed by your propagation initiatives. I tried Woodwardia in my former, shady garden but, unfortunately, it didn't like Southern California. So far, the only reliable fern I've found that'll survive in my current garden (which is in a hotter area than my former garden 15 miles away) is the asparagus fern, although 2 of the 3 Asplenium bulbiferum I planted in early spring this year are hanging on.

    1. Have you tried semi-desert ferns? These plants are adapted to heat and drought. The easiest to find are species of Astrolepis, Cheilanthes, and Pellaea.

    2. I am growing them in Northern California. What part of Southern California are you in? They would not like coast conditions. They don't like San Francisco for example. I used to garden there. They hate wind and cold. You should try a pop up plastic green house. It will increase your humidity and protect if from wind and cold, if you have any. I think they would like San Deigo. You can remove the pop green house when the weather is better and put it on when it is cold and windy. Asparagus fern is very hardy, but it get very big painful thorns when it grows up, which made me bleed. I took it out.

  2. Hope the variegation will be stable.

  3. Of course it's your favorite...what else is a proud papa to do?

    1. Indeed! Now if only I smoked I could break out a congratulatory cigar!

  4. Kudos to you on growing such a cool, interesting fern from a plantlet.

  5. Hi, Neat post. There's a problem together with your web site in internet explorer, would check this?
    IE still is the marketplace leader and a large element of folks will omit your great writing due to this problem.

    Feel free to surf to my weblog - investment property [http://www.perfecteyes.com/users/WMYVZ]

    1. I checked and saw no problem with my blog in IE. Can you be more specific?

  6. Only time will tell...(congrats!)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts