Pteris cretica ‘Albo-lineata’: Variegated Table Fern

This fern with pinnate fronds is one of the commonest to be seen in the florist’s window, for it is a tried and tested species that thrives in most homes.

The type species, which differs from the cultivar only by having entirely green leaves, grows in the subtropical and tropical countries of the whole world. It may be found in the forests of south-east Asia in the mist belt approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above sea level, as well as on the southern and eastern slopes of cliffs in the Mediterranean region, where it grows together with xerophilous plants. This in itself is evidence of the great adaptability of the species. At the same time, data on the climate of its original habitats point to the need for cooler overwintering. This, however, is not required by the cultivar ‘ Albolineata’ which likes a winter temperature of about 18 to 22°C (65 to 72°F).

Pteris should be planted in a mixture of humus, peat and sand (or one of the soilless composts), best of all in flat ceramic dishes which permit an arrangement containing several other plants. In such an arrangement the fern’s delicate green coloration as well as the interesting shape of its fronds make an attractive display. Keep in mind, however, that it requires partial shade and permanent moisture so that it may be combined only with plants that have similar requirements. It does well in demijohns and fishbowls, which, thanks to its moderate light requirements, may be placed as permanent decoration on a large table or other such place.

Perhaps no other fern can be propagated as easily as pteris. The spores are arranged in clusters edging the underside of the leaves. When ripe they look like dark powder, which may be sown in dishes containing sterilized peat. When the first green leaf-like discs (prothalluses) appear shortly after, the dishes should be moved to a light spot and as soon as the seedlings begin to develop they should be pricked out. This fern has a rapid rate of growth; when fully grown it is approximately 20 cm (8 in) high.

The related species P. ensiformis from tropical Asia, and P. longifolia and P. muricata from tropical America have like requirements, but need somewhat more atmospheric moisture.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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