Blechnum fluviatile

Ray water fern, creek fern Epithet means "of rivers and streams." Evergreen, 12 to 18 in. (30 to 45 cm). Zones 8 and 9. Dimorphic. Apogamous.

description: The rhizome is erect. Grooved, ebony stipes are one-sixth of the frond length and covered with bristly, translucent tan, linear scales that have a prominent black splotch at their point of attachment. These signature characteristics travel upward through the lower portions of the rachis. Ground-hugging sterile, medium green fronds radiate horizontally with 20 to 40 pairs of oval 3/8-in. (9-mm) pinnae trimmed in prominent stubbles of dark bristles and marked with a dark midrib vein. The distinctive, strongly upright, sori-bearing pinnae are parallel to and could almost graft with the rachis of the slender, vertical, fertile fronds.

range and habitat: This wonderful little specimen is native to New Zealand and Australia with a disjunct population in Borneo. it prefers dampish surroundings.

culture and comments: Grow Blechnum fluviatile in moist and protected shadelands in Zone 8 and with associated New Zealand natives in Zone 9. When my lone plant is threatened with sweeping arctic freezes, I cover it with horticultural gauze. My last carefully spread protective blanket for such nurturing was carried away by a presumably needy crow and found the following morning in the upper limbs of a neighbor's tree. The fern survived. Like many blechnums, this species is unpredictable and erratic in growth from spores and is more productive in its native habitats than in the persuasions of propagators from the Northern Hemisphere.

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