Cyrtomium falcatum: Fishtail Fern

This species is native to south-east Asia, its range extending from India to China where it grows at elevations of up to 1,000 m (3,200 ft), in other words on the boundary between tropical and subtropical conditions. It is also frequently found on the slopes of mountains by the sea.

The rather stiff fronds indicate that the fern tolerates a dry atmosphere for brief periods. Every application of water, however, is to the good, and it should thus be sprayed over as frequently as possible. It has no special light requirements and will even tolerate diffused light. The compost should be light and composed of peat, loam, sand, rotted wood dust and beech leaves, or one of the soilless composts. It should never be allowed to dry out. For this reason it is recommended to grow cyrtomium in a plastic pot which allows less water to evaporate than a clay one. Place the pot in a larger dish filled with peat, which should be kept continually damp, thus providing the plant with the moisture it requires. The peat also increases the atmospheric moisture in the room. Feed should be applied only during the growing period. Use organic fertilizers in the concentration recommended by the manufacturer.

This fern need not be transplanted every year. Instead, remove one-third of the compost in the pot and replace it with some fresh mixture, as above.

Although cyrtomium is a typical geophytic fern (one that grows on the ground), it also does well when planted in a peat mixture in a hollow log. This is more attractive than a pot, for a fern always teams up well with natural wood. It thrives also in a ‘dry spot’ in the paludarium, where it can be plunged in the soil together with the pot.

The related Chinese species Cyrtomium caryotideum, which unfortunately is not found amongst cultivated plants, tolerates far more light and a drier atmosphere indoors.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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