Blechnum discolor Crown fern

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Epithet means "of two different colors."

Evergreen, IV2 to 3 ft. (45 to 90 cm).Zones 8 (with protection)

to 10, or greenhouse. Dimorphic.

description: The rhizome is erect, rather quickly forming a trunk of 6 to 12 in. (15 to 30 cm). The once-pinnate sterile fronds are elliptic with 30 to 40 pairs of sessile pinnae with prominent veins. They taper strongly at the base above short stipes that are about one-sixth of the frond length. The blades are a bright green with whitish undersides, an attractive duet. Fountains of fertile fronds flow forth from the center of the sterile rosettes and are quite vertical. The "fertile" stalks are an intriguing combination of sterile and fertile pinnae with the lower portions composed of zigzag stubs of sterile tissue and the upper portions sporting pointed darts of sori.

range and habitat: This species is endemic to New Zealand where it is abundant in damp to dry soil in beech forests especially at higher altitudes and on the North island. in native habitats the stolons wander about producing magnificent colonies of foliage. "Such scenes are one of the great delights of the bush" (Metcalf 1993).

culture and comments: Blechnum discolor is easily identified by the lightness of the frond underside, which makes it an ideal plant for hanging or posting up where the "discolor" can be admired. The Maoris use the fronds with their white undersides as trail markers. Crown fern enjoys rich soil and greenhouse culture but I, for one, would like to try it in protected microhabitats in Zone 8. British specialists are cultivating it successfully. The spores are very, very short lived and must be sown as soon as ripe. Stolons provide a better propagation option, producing plants that are willingly separated and reestablished in composty soil.

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