Rasp ferns, hacksaw ferns

With only 12 to 15 species this is a very small genus but it includes several marvelous options for those tough sunny and even dryish spots in the garden. The species are native from Sri Lanka to Polynesia and Hawaii; however, those with garden potential are from Australia and New Zealand. With overlapping characteristics, some tend to look alike (with distinctions varying from reference to reference but garden values constant). Called rasp or hacksaw ferns, the plants have pinnae edged with marginal teeth terminating in minute spines. A little stroking will find them rough to the touch. Blades are upright and once-pinnate with netted veins. Unfurling fronds are frequently tinted from pink to a rich red maturing to deep green. The intensity of the color varies with exposure (and possibly soil types). For enhanced and prolonged color grow them in slightly moist and well-drained sunny sites. (They bring the same buoyant coloration indoors as trouble-free houseplants.) Stipes have a hint of a groove and enclose two vascular bundles that are shaped like teardrops. Sori are lined like rows of dashes along both sides of the pinnae midrib and have an indusium opening away from the margins. With soral similarities these species are closely related to Blechnum and Woodwardia. The name Doodia honors Samuel Doody (1656-1706), curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, and Britain's first cryptogamic botanist.

Doodia aspera Prickly rasp fern Epithet means "rough."

Evergreen, 8 to 18 in. (20 to 45 cm).Zones 9 to 10.

description: The rhizome is short and erect and has underground runners. At one-fifth of the frond length, black stipes with a smattering of glistening dark scales are likewise short. Narrowly elliptical, dentate, dark green shiny blades are once-pinnate with an elongate tip and 30 to 40 pairs of pinnae that are reduced to nubbins at the frond base. Significantly, with the exception of the basal pair, they are broadly attached to the rachis. Sori are in broken lines running parallel to the pinnae midveins.

range and habitat: This species is native to India, Sri Lanka, and Australia and has been introduced but not well established in New Zealand. it colonizes readily in light shade by forested stream banks as well as in drier rocky sites where it forms compact clumps.

culture and comments: With its sassy pink to ruby new fronds, prickly rasp fern is a delightful refreshment among the traditional green foliage of ferns and companions. It is best in partial sun with rich soil, but good drainage, in Zones 9 and 10 where it excels in rock garden crannies. Zone 8 gardeners should give it a trial site in the side of the garden that receives winter sun or better yet where the house protects the planting from polar wind and cold.

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