The Antlers on My Walls

by | Dec 6, 2014 | 5 comments

Staghorn fern with the spores visible

Every Thanksgiving, we make the trek up North to mid Michigan to Mom’s house for the holiday. This is, of course, during hunting season. Why does that matter, you ask? Well, its not bad getting there, but quite often on the way home, it isn’t as pleasant. I understand that deer need to be thinned out and for this to happen people shoot them. I don’t want them to starve over the winter. What I hate is the need for the deer to be hauled home on top of vehicles for all the world to see. It is disgusting and sad. I think maybe they want to show off their trophies. And, the bigger the rack (or horns), the better. My brothers and nephews hunt, but the only deer horns I want on my wall are of the staghorn type! Staghorn fern that is!

At an antique store
My nephew’s mule deer


Platycerium bifurcatum

Platycerium bifurcatum or staghorn fern is one of my favorite plants. Platycerium means ‘broad horn’ in Latin. The ‘antlers’ stand up and cascade and can be very impressive. These plants can grow to enormous proportions. There are many different species of these ferns and I have seen quite a few of these at different botanical gardens I have visited.

The most common species you will likely encounter is the Platycerium bifurcatum pictured here on the left.

Platycerium bifurcatum with spores on fertile fronds showing

These tropical plants are native to the Philippines, SE Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Madagascar, Africa, and America. They grow naturally as epiphytes on trees in the jungles. They are dimorphic meaning they sport two kinds of fronds. The first are the basal fronds and are often called ‘sterile’ fronds. They grasp onto the growing surface and usually are brown, starting their life as green, though. They become papery looking and feel that way as well. Their main function is to collect water, fallen leaves, and plant debris. The debris breaks down and releases nutrients to the fern. You can see them in the above picture (the brown part).
The other fronds are called foliar fronds and are the ‘fertile’ fronds. They can be erect or pendant and they produce the spores which are like seeds in that they are the way they reproduce. 
The silvery tint of the fronds is produced by numerous stellate (star shaped) trichomes [from Greek (tri khoma) meaning ‘hair’, fine outgrowths or appendages on plants] which are visible only under a microscope.

Platycerium wandae from New Guinea
Platycerium wandae at Longwood Gardens

Platycerium wandae or the Queen Elkhorn fern is the largest growing Platycerium and is from New Guinea. It can be 6-8 feet tall. 

Fronds hanging down on the Platycerium wandae
Platycerium superbum at Longwood Gardens

Platycerium superbum is also a very large fern and is from Australia.

Platycerium superbum
Platycerium superbum
Platycerium andinum or South American staghorn fern

Platycerium andinum refers to the Andes mountains in South America and there it lives in the dry forests of Peru and Bolivia. The biggest problem with this fern is overwatering. It does not like to be constantly wet. Crown of Angels is the common name.

Platycerium andinum with the spores on the fertile fronds showing

Notice the black sooty mold which grows on the honeydew

Staghorns rarely have problems, but occasionally, scale can be a pest on them. These pictures were taken at a botanical garden where it is especially hard to control insects, as it is a public place. The best thing to do is pick them off. Ferns are very sensitive to sprays, soaps, and oils. 

Platycerium bifurcatum with scale


Platycerium bifurcatum with scale


Notice the honeydew which is the excrement from the scale.


 So if you aren’t so keen on having a dead animal with antlers on your wall, try one of these living works of art known as staghorn ferns.

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  1. pam T

    These are so beautiful. I have about 3 staghorns in 1 pot, which is the way I bought it and want to mount them on wood, but am so afraid of hurting them that I haven’t done it yet. LOL. my absolute favorite plant.

    • Lisa

      I have a couple I need to mount on wood, as well. One for me and one for my daughter’s boyfriend. Just haven’t done it yet. I’ll post a blog when I do it.

  2. Barbara

    Love Love Love!!. So many different varieties. Recently attempted my hands at making a Staghorn fern hanging. Not the best looking one out there but will be posting results soon on my blog.


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