Cyrtomium caryotideum

Epithet means "nutlike," from Greek caryo or caryota, referring to the leaves which are similar to those on nut trees. Evergreen, 2 ft. (60 cm).Zones 7 to 10. Apogamous.

description: The rhizome is erect. Straw-colored stipes with dark basal scales are one-third to one-half of the frond length. Oblong, once-pinnate blades bear three to six pairs of pale green pinnae and a large terminal pinna. Slightly stalked 2-in. (5-cm) long triangular pinnae are auricled frequently on both sides of their base (biauriculate) and taper to a point. They have serrate margins and are noted for the inconspicuous nature of their veins. Sori with peltate indusia are on vein-lets enclosed in areoles (the rounded outlines defined by the netted venation).

range and habitat: In many of its natural sites, this species grows in muddy limestone clefts, though neither mud nor lime is necessary, or for that matter even welcome, in garden situations. The native range extends from the mountainous regions of the Himalayas, Japan, China, and Vietnam to the Philippines and Hawaii.

culture and comments: Readily cultivated and welcomed as a visual contrast to more feathery garden material, this species is not fussy and can be sited in light shade and rich soil. Use it freely, with its trademark matte green fronds, as a design element to break the potential monotony of a continuous spread of forest-green foliage in the garden's woodlands.

The rare variety micropterum is native to South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar.

Cyrtomium sori.

Cyrtomium falcatum Japanese holly fern, Asian holly fern

Epithet means "falcate" or "sickle-shaped."

Evergreen, 1 to 2 ft. (30 to 60 cm). Zones 7 to 10. Apogamous.

description: The rhizome is erect. Stipes are straw-colored, densely cloaked in russet scales and one-third or more of the frond length. Once-pinnate, oblong blades are bright beacons of lacquered forest-green. The 5 to 18 pairs of pointed, polished pinnae have entire, sometimes undulate, margins that are not toothed. Veins are netted. Plentiful sori with peltate indusia are distributed among the veins.

range and habitat: The species grows in lowland regions in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, India, and Vietnam. It has escaped and naturalized in Hawaii, the southern United States, the Atlantic Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Look for a population near you.

culture and comments: With its whorls of shiny green fronds, this makes an easy and outstanding accent plant, especially when surrounded by contrasting gossamer foliage. Give it average fern soil and light shade, as it will burn in too much sun. Its leathery texture and heat tolerance make it an ideal candidate, together with its varieties, for indoor use. cut fronds provide long-lasting greenery in flower arrangements, usually remaining fresh and healthy longer than the flowers. The cultivars all come true from spores.

'Butterfieldii' is in the indoor trade and has serrate margins.

'Eco Korean Jade' is a dwarf form, usually less than 1 ft. (30 cm) tall, with five pairs more or less of shiny oblong pinnae. It was introduced by Don Jacobs of Georgia and has survived with mulch in a lime cobble in Pittsburgh's Zone 6 where Cyrtomium falcatum has failed.

'Maritimum' (by the sea) has been distributed as "Mini Holly" and is a shiny dwarf for Zone 8 or warmer gardens.

'Mayi', synonym 'Cristatum', has crested pinnae and frond tips.

Cyrtomium falcatum at the Birmingham Botanical Garden.
Jean Charles Isle Before

'Rochfordianum', Rochford's holly fern, is the stereotypical holly fern but with fringed glossy pinnae. It is hardy outdoors in Zones 7 to 10 and indoors just about anywhere.

Cyrtomium fortunei Fortune's holly fern

Epithet is after Scottish plant collector Robert Fortune (1813-1880), who was responsible for spreading tea cultivation from China to India and Sri Lanka. Evergreen, 21/2 ft. (75 cm). Zones 5 to 10. Apogamous.

description: The rhizome is erect. Short, 4-in. (10-cm) greenish stipes are barely visible under clouds of large tan scales. Fronds on the species are upright with lanceolate, once-pinnate, lightly luminous green blades. Twelve to twenty-five pairs of pinnae with a matching terminal pinna are oblong, and sometimes auricled. pinna tips curve in a graceful upward sweep towards the frond's apex.Veins are netted, and sori with peltate indusia are in a series of rows parallel to the pinnae midrib.

range and habitat: This is a fern of Korea, China, Vietnam, and Thailand and is especially common in Japan where it grows from city walls to mountainous forest floors. Like Cyrtomium falcatum is has escaped in a disjunct assortment of habitats from Oregon and South Carolina in the United States to Italy.

culture and comments: This is the Cyrtomium for climates with cold winters such as in Zone 5 or 6. It successfully survives rigorous temperature extremes from Salt Lake City to southern Massachusetts. While lime tolerant it does not depend on supplements for good health. Normal woodland compost and light to deep shade will maintain its dependable display of soft green circles of fronds.

Var. clivicola from Japan and China has fewer (10 to 15) but larger pairs of pinnae. The pinnae are auricled and broader than the V2 in. (13 mm) typical pinnae width of the species. This variety prefers deep shade, has no sheen, and tends to be a pale yellowish green. It is visually similar to var. intermedium; however the latter has indusia with a central brown spot compared to uniformly grayish white indusia on this variety.

Var. intermedium, a Japanese endemic, presents a low rosette of striking, lime-green pinnae with prominent veins and blackish midribs. Six to ten pairs of 1-in. (2.5-cm) wide, broad-based pinnae are slightly auricled. Site it in the dark depths of the woodlands where it is guaranteed to attract attention and admiration as a relaxing visual for the gardener. Both varieties come true from spores.

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