Woodwardia unigemmata

Epithet means "single-jeweled," referring to the bulbil which forms at the tip of the frond.

Evergreen, 3 to 7 ft. (90 to 210 cm). Zones 8 to 10.

description: A thick rhizome produces fountains of cascading fronds with a greenish stipe up to 30 in. (75 cm) and pinnate-pinnatifid blades up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) long and 2 ft. (60 cm) wide. Young fronds are a sumptuous sight of glossy red and fade in time to a deep green. The pinnae are alternate, very mildly toothed, and strongly acute at their tip and edges. The linear sori, covered with an indusial flap, follow the midribs, and their ridges are prominent on the upper surface of the blade. A bulbil (actually in some cases several) forms at the tip of the frond and will reproduce when pinned down on suitable soil.

range and habitat: This is a colonizer of mountain forests from Japan, China, and the Himalayas to the Philippines. An attractive undulate variety is being grown in Britain.

culture and comments: Here is the gem of the genus. As readers may have noticed i am more than slightly partial to ferns with colorful new growth and, by providing up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) of a rosy skirt, the new fronds on this species are remarkable indeed. My plant is sited in a protected niche at the top of a rustic wood retaining wall where the fronds flow downwards to the ground in a maternal effort to plant their bulbils. It has survived winter temperatures of 18°F (-8°C),but I do protect it when necessary with a blanket of light horticultural gauze. Future imports from China may prove even hardier than the Zone 8 designation. In colder areas it is a magnificent specimen for the greenhouse and is frequently seen in conservatories in Britain and Europe. Basket culture offers a handsome option. Propagation comes quite easily and

Ferns Foundational Planting
Woodwardia unigemmata in the Hardy Fern Foundation's Signature Bed planting at the Washington Park Arboretum in 2004.
Saturated, rich red new growth on Woodwardia unigemmata. Note also the intricate pattern of the veins.
Woodwardia Biserrata
The undulate form of Woodwardia unigemmata growing in the Ogden garden. Photo by Alan Ogden.

naturally with the bulbils; however, spores are reasonably willing (much more so than for Woodwardia fimbriata) for growers interested in a more plentiful crop. If the plant has a fault, it is that with its hanging habit it looks rather droopy on the sales shelf. Some researchers have proposed that the correct name should be W. biserrata reflecting differences in bulbil production between natives of eastern Asia and the Philippines.

Woodwardia Biserrata
Cascading frond of Woodwardia unigemmata.

Golden tones on the unfurling frond of Woodwardia virginica.

Woodwardia spinulosa in its native Mexican habitat.

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