Blechnum hard fern
The European hard fern (Blechnum spicant) belongs in this genus. The majority of the 200 or so known species originate from the tropics and subtropics. Many form upright trunks with a rosette of simple-feathered, slightly overhanging fronds at the top. These plants tend to remind one of palm trees. The leaves, which have hardly any stalk, have strong central ribs. Usually the sterile fronds form broader feathery leaflets, the fertile ones only narrow leaves. The spore capsules form in long strips along the central ribs.
• Blechnum brasiliense develops into large specimens with stems up to a metre (40 in) high. The young, reddish fronds unfurl from the centre of the leaf rosette.
• Blechnum gibbum is generally offered for sale as a small pot plant but, given a favourable position, can also attain a considerable size.
Origin: Shady forests in the tropics and subtropics of the southern hemisphere. They flourish as terrestrial ferns in moist to wet soils.
Position: Bright to semi-shady, no sunlight. Even room temperature all year round, not below 16° C (61° F) during the winter. Medium high humidity.
Care: Water plentifully in spring and summer but avoid water-logging. Do not allow it to dry out or brown leaf tips will instantly appear. Several days of drought will kill the plant. Give weak doses of fertilizer fortnightly from the first month of spring to early autumn. Do not spray the plant or mist it all as it is sensitive to wet leaves. Ensure indirect humidity and good ventilation. Younger specimens should be repotted once a year, older ones when necessary.
Pests, diseases: Aphids on young shoots; scale insects. Stagnant water on the fronds leads to glassy leaves, followed by black patches.