Unusual Ferns That Creep and Crawl Along on “Feet”

by | Jul 14, 2020 | 2 comments

Last winter I went to Seattle for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. (A must visit when they have it again.) In the market place, I stumbled upon Andy’s Orchids’ booth and bought quite a few plants, even knowing they would have to be in a carry-on suitcase flying home. I discovered two unusual ferns I had never seen before and snapped them up. I love the “footed” ferns and they both have those creeping rhizomes. They only had the genus names on the tags and they are microgramma and elaphoglossum.

Microgramma fern

Microgramma fern

Micgrogramma fern

I love the microgramma because of the netted veins on its leaves. It is an epiphyte in its native habitat and I can imagine these long rhizomes creeping along on a tree branch. Can you? If you like ferns you must get the Fern Grower’s Manual by Hoshizaki and Moran. It is an amazing book! A textbook of ferns, if you will. I looked up microgramma and found that in Greek, mikros= small and gramma= line, referring to the sori (clusters of spore cases) which are slightly elongated. After studying the different species in the book, I believe this is Microgramma squamulosa, but am not positive. If anyone knows, please let me know. It’s a very cool fern!

Leaf veins

The leaves are what attracted me to this fern. Look at those netted veins! Aren’t they gorgeous and so unusual?


Microgramma leaf


Elaphoglossum fern

Ephoglossum fern

Elaphoglossum or paddle fern

This is the elaphoglossum fern and it is a small fern. This one in a 4″ pot. The leaves are only a few inches long and though the rhizomes aren’t visible like on the microgramma above, they are there. You just have to look for them. It may be time for a new pot as the rhizome has started to creep over the edge of the container. The name is from the Greek for elaphos= stag and glossa= tongue. I guess the fronds reminded someone of a deer’s tongue.

Rhizome on Elaphoglossum

Elaphoglossum fern rhizome

Identifying the fern

After reading through the species in the Fern Grower’s Manual, I think it may be Elaphoglossum decoratum. It talks about the star-shaped scales on the leaves and I hadn’t read the book before taking pictures so I didn’t take a closeup of the scales on the leaves. I may later and will add it, but they are kind of star-shaped. If you know the species, let me know.

Care of these ferns

I put both of these ferns in an empty 10-gallon fish tank in an east window. I wanted to give them a bit more humidity and they are doing well. I make sure to not allow them to dry out, as ferns like an evenly moist medium. I am fighting mealybugs on these ferns right now. I washed them off and added some Bonide Houseplant Insecticide granules in the potting medium. Mealybugs are the devil! I don’t spray my ferns with anything, such as Neem oil or insecticide, because ferns are sensitive to sprays. Hopefully, if I keep checking them and remove any stray bugs, I can keep them under control.

Unknown fern

The last fern is a newer purchase. I bought it and the tag said it was a walking bird’s nest fern (Asplenium) but after research, I know it is not. I don’t exactly know what it is, but am thinking a pyrrosia of some sort….Does anyone have an idea? I just know I had to have it.

fern with feet

Unknown fern

Room for rhizomes

I wanted to plant the large part of the plant in the middle of the pot but when I took it out of its grow pot, it had a rhizome heading the other way. So I found this oval pot and it gave the plant the room the rhizomes needed. It has put out a lot of new leaves since I bought it in May. Below is the main part of the plant with lots of new leaves.

This is the opposite side of the pot where the new rhizome is coming up and has sent out a new leaf.

I love ferns and am always on the lookout for new, unique varieties. I’ve mentioned my great grandma’s fern often and how I’ve cared for it for over 35 years. I’m not always successful with ferns, though, and have helped a lot of ferns into fern heaven, especially the maidenhair varieties. Ferns can be a little finicky and more work when they shed leaflets, but its all worth it to me. Do you have ferns? Let me know in the comments.

Have a great week!


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  1. Dianne

    I had an asparagus fern but I hated the mess.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      It can be messy, but I’ve found if I never let it dry out, it helps.


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