Rumohra

Rumohra was named in honor of Karl von Rumohr (1785-1843), an artist from Dresden, Germany. The species, numbering from one to eight, are Southern Hemisphere natives.

The recognized species of distinction, Rumohra adi-antiformis (resembling maidenhair, a rather peculiar and in

Quercifilix zeylanica in the Fernery at the Morris Arboretum.

Rumohra adiantiformis spreads gently with rich, low foliage in shades of deep green in the Duryee garden.

appropriate comparison), is the leather leaf fern whose fronds are those familiar glossy, forest-green adornments that give the finishing touch to flower arrangements (and will long outlive the flowers). The lustrous and "leathery" variable evergreen foliage springs from creeping rhizomes. Grooved, shiny, rich green stipes with a smattering of pale russet scales are up to one-half of the frond length. The broad triangular blades are bipinnate to tripinnate and have pinnules with serrate margins. Sori, when present, are medial and have a peltate in-dusium. Height, from 1 to 3 ft. (30 to 90 cm), and configurations vary considerably and range from compact specimens in sunny high elevations in its native Chile to elongate wands in the deep shade of moisture-rich North American gardens.

The species is hardy in Zones 8 to 10, although it may lose foliage in cold winter areas. My Zone 8 plants have been thriving without protection ever since a long ago day when I became frustrated while trying to divide plants from a wooden flat overgrown with masses of rhizomes and fronds and in desperation "planted" the entire flat into the garden. Grow it in filtered shade and average compost and welcome the foliage

Truly leathery fronds of Rumohra growing in volcanic rubble in a fully exposed site in Chile. Photo by Richie Steffen, Miller Botanical Garden.

into the vase and boutonnière. Away from warmer climates, the species can be grown as a houseplant. It will need good light to keep from becoming leggy and space to stretch its lustrous foliage.

Economically, leather leaf fern fronds are of great commercial significance as a cut foliage crop with an epicenter in Apopka, Florida, as well as developing sites in Central America. Enthusiastically received by the public upon their introduction in the early 1900s, the long-lasting, glowing, dark green fronds replaced Asparagus setaceous (often referred to as A. plumosus or simply "plumosus") as Florida's leading foliar export well before midcentury. Sales reached their zenith in the 1980s with a 1984-85 wholesale value of $86,000,000. Subsequently, the devastating effects of assorted hurricanes reduced production so that the 2004 profit was $47,000,000. The industry's recovery is well under way, however, with artificial shade structures replacing the natural shade, and sun-loving substitutes, such as Equisetum hyemale, joining the cut foliage business.

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