An interesting genus of ferns, unusual for the presence of two distinct types of fronds.

These form shield fronds, also called sterile fronds, which form a nest for the roots.  These shields may act to catch leaf litter and organic debris, or they may act to regulate moisture, such as types with closed shields, which tend to grow in very wet areas.

The other type of frond is called a fertile frond, or normal frond.  These vary from an entire, rounded frond, such as in P. elephantotis, to much-divided, long fronds.

It was long believed that hybrids of platycerium were rare.  Occasional hybrids were found, such as P. ‘Horne’s Surprise,’ a chance volunteer in the nursery of the late Jerry Horne.  In my decades of growing, with all of the species on hand, oddballs showed up with increasing frequency.  Growers in Thailand, and elsewhere, began mixing spores, and the results showed that some platycerium hybridize readily.  Some of these hybrids are fertile, contradicting another long-held assumption.

Here are a few sports or hybrids which I will be introducing very soon:

Platycerium ‘Roy Vail’  This has been shown to have P. andinum as a parent, and the distinctive shields of P.madagascariense can be seen, so this is a cross of P. andinum x P. madagascariense.

I am pleased to be able to name this after Roy Vail, who introduced many of us to staghorns, with his Platycerium Hobbyists Handbook,’ and who worked very hard to ensure the survival of P. andinum, the only species to occur naturally in the Americas.

Platycerium ‘Larry Weed’  DNA work showed this plant to have P. alcicorne as a parent, and the influence of P. madagascariense is obvious.  So, this is a hybrid of P. alcicorne x P. madagascariense.  It is very likely this arose from a Madagascar form of P. alcicorne, since it has a gray-green coloration, and just seems a little stiffer.

Larry Weed loved to do fern shows, and he shared his knowledge and support with many of us.

P. ‘Harry Luther’  This pleasing cultivar resulted from the first time I mixed spores.  The parents are P. quadridichotomum x P. madagascariense.  It exhibits clear traits of both the parents, and seems to be easier to grow.  Other plants of this cross are in the trade, and I hope someone straightens out the nomenclature.  I believe it is best to treat these cultivars as individuals, unless the parentage is known with certainty.

Harry Luther was my first contact at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and he became my friend.  He was a brilliant plantsman, best known for his work with bromeliads, but an expert in many genera, including platycerium.  His time and shared knowledge were of incalculable importance to me, and I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing some years ago.  After leaving Selby, he worked for a time at the Singapore Bot. Gdn.

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