Ceterach

Ceterach (from the Greek sjetrak or, prior to that, the persian chetrak, both being ancient names for "fern") is a small genus often included with Asplenium; however, various authorities segregate it based on the scaly undersides and the reticulate (netted) venation. The species are compact, low swirls of dense pinnatifid masses of foliage. Traditionally the fronds carry a functional, protective undercoat of thick and showy scales that develop in silver and fade to rust. The succulent

Dwarf forms of Ceterach officinarum selected from several batches of sporelings create an attractive patch in the Baggett garden.

fronds are attractively lobed and carry linear sori with a matching indusium along the veins.

These species have a strong preference for a challenging life in the limestone mortar of walls and a corresponding distinct disdain for luxury living in a traditional (even customized) garden situation. Spore sowings are usually quite promptly productive. Cultural problems do develop, however, usually in adolescence. The sporelings are difficult to cultivate and transitioning them from the propagation bed to the garden is very challenging indeed. For best results tend the plants in a scree of basic rubble or shoehorn them in between rocks and secure with moss on a vertical wall. Good drainage is mandatory, and watering should be kept to a minimum. Are they worth the effort? A good display (or even a living plant) can make for a proud gardener and bring forth the admiration of the cognoscenti.

In ancient Greece it was the original spleenwort, credited before the aspleniums we know today, with curing ailments of the spleen, even dissolving said spleens in animals (supposedly confirmed when the animals were sacrificed at ancient game rituals). Elsewhere it has historically been used to remedy a variety of ills. And in a rather unusual departure from medical miracles, the Reverend Hugh Davies reports, in his Welsh Botanology (1813), that Ceterach officinarum was collected almost to extinction in Anglesea where it was used as bait for rock cod fishing (apparently successfully).

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