Arachniodes

Synonyms Leptorumohra, Polystichopsis The arachniodes are an elegant and tidy collection of 50 to more than 100 species (depending, per Hassler and Swale [2002], on the status of the Chinese nomenclature) of well-mannered, primarily evergreen contributions to horticulture. Along with Cyr-tomium and Polystichum, they were once classified as Aspidium. They share the botanical characteristic of kidney-shaped indu-sia with Dryopteris and the polished, frequently bristle-tipped pinnae and pinnules with Polystichum.

The rhizomes are short- to long-creeping, supporting a random production of clustered to widely spaced singular fronds that do not form a stereotypical arching vase of foliage. The stipes are long, often one-half or more of the frond length, and the blades are usually broadly ovate-triangular or pentagonal. Most species are noted for their spectacular luster and all described have a characteristically elongate lower inner pinnule (basiscopic in botanese) on the basal pinnae. The veins are free and forking. Four or more vascular bundles circle the inner walls of the stipe. (On my Arachniodes standishii the stipe is grooved with a dominant interior bundle on either side of the cleft, and a horseshoe of three smaller bundles on the rounded opposite edge.)

Most arachniodes come to us from Asia, especially China and Japan, and many more potentially temperate ornamentals should be forthcoming (sought out) from these regions as well as the Himalayas. Two species are from the New World. Grow this five-star group of ferns in partial sun to shade in light but moist compost where they offer 12 months ofbright-ness with a minimum amount of maintenance.

Arachniodes translates from Greek arachnion, spider's web, and odes, having the form of a spider web, or "spiderlike." Leg end has it that the herbarium material studied by Carl Blume (1796-1862), the botanical author, was well wrapped in cobwebs, hence the name. A more mundane explanation indicates that it was named for the spidery appearance of A. aristata, the type plant.

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