Platycerium is another genus of epiphytic ferns. It is a well known subject of florist shop windows, which, unfortunately, usually display only the single species P. bifurcation, one that is generally mistaken for the similar P. alcicorne ‘Hillii’. It is one of the hardiest species of the entire genus, but the requirements of other platyceriums are often greatly exaggerated. All platyceriums do well in the home, but they must be grown as epiphytes. P. bifurcation, however, also does well in pots and that is why it became so popular with nurserymen, who prefer this method of growing plants.
Approximately 17 species of platyceriums are found in the tropics of the Old World. The species, native to Malaya, is one of the large ones. If grown as a house plant, its leaves normally attain a length of 1.5 m (5 ft). That is why it can be used only in larger epiphytic arrangements, where it forms a magnificent feature. Also commonly cultivated are P. angolense from equatorial Africa, and P. grande from the warmest parts of Asia and Australia.
Cultivation is the same for all, preferably on large plates of cork oak bark or on epiphyte trunks. Attach them in place together with a ball of light epiphytic compost, which will supply the shortened rhizome with sufficient moisture and facilitate rooting. As for feeding, putting an occasional handful of beech leaves or compost behind the sterile leaves that are pressed to the substrate will suffice. Care consists mainly of spraying the leaves lightly with water; the fern will respond with lush, healthy growth.
Propagation is the same as for other ferns — by means ofsown on the surface of moist, sterile peat. Spores are formed in sporangia — brown or rust-coloured spots edging the underside of the leaves or else clustered in variously shaped formations. In the species they form a rusty-brown, kidney-shaped patch at the base of the fertile leaves.