Sadleria

Sadleria is named for Joseph Sadler (1791-1859), a physician and fern scholar from Hungary. There are six species, some common and some rare, but all endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. In the flowing, musical language of those islands, several species are known as 'ama'u, ma'u, ma'uma'u, and pua'a 'ehu 'ehu, some with religious significance.

The most familiar species is Sadleria cyatheoides (like Cy-athea) with magnificent arching fronds that grace the islands' landscapes from moisture-laden skylines to the destitute, freshly distributed lava flows where it is an industrial strength pioneer (and considerably smaller in stature). Stunning, and apparently perpetually appearing, new growth emerges in brilliant red tones and becomes an equally attractive bright green with pale undersides at maturity.

The rhizomes creep and/or form small upright trunks. Straw-colored, grooved stipes have a complement of tapering, uniformly tan scales at their base. (Of the other more commonly encountered sadlerias, Sadleria pallida has scales with a dark center, and S. souleyetiana has a mass of papery scales that may or may not have a dark center. On all three species the scales are confined to the bases of the stipes.) The blades on the up to 5-ft. (1.5-m) fronds are pinnate-pinnatifid to occasionally bipinnate on larger lower pinnae, with 30 to 60 segments per pinna. Perished fronds droop around the trunks like discarded, silvery skirts. The genus is closely related to

Sweeps of Sadleria fronds and deep blue, clear tropical skies paint a memorable picture on a mountain top in Kauai.
Warm red unfurling Sadleria fronds are framed by their rich green mature foliage.

Blechnum as evidenced by the position of the linear sori, which extend with inward-opening indusia along the midribs of fertile pinna.

This marvelous and showy tropical can be cultivated in frost-free areas in fast-draining, mineral-rich, and especially volcanic soils. The species grows throughout Hawaii where wind-borne mists (and yes, rain), so typical in their island habitats, keep the large fronds brilliant and healthy. Even the stubby, tenacious invaders that emerge from volcanic cracks like grass in sidewalks appreciate the refreshing, cooling vapors that drop from passing or encompassing clouds.

Patient hobbyists in the Greater Seattle area have tried without success on many wishful occasions to introduce plants in comfortable and suitable microclimates. Sadleria produces spores erratically. Please do believe the tales that tell of sporelings, and potential sporelings, in promising production stages being resentful of any root disturbance. They collapse even when transferred from the highly encouraging initial cultural mass to matching conditions. An upgrade to a 4-in. (10-cm) pot plant is a major success, and often a fleeting one at that.

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