Australian Native Ferns

Course CodeVHT116
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

How Much Do You Know About Australian Ferns?

Learn which ferns occur naturally in Australia along with:

  • how to identify ferns,
  • where to obtain relevant accurate information,
  • how to propagate ferns, and
  • growing and using ferns in baskets, terrariums, and landscapes.

Australia is home to a wide variety of ferns; and many Australian Ferns have become popular garden, or indoor plants in places beyond their natural habitat.

Certain Australian tree ferns for instance, are extremely popular in the United Kingdom.  Australian Maiden hair Ferns are widely grown as indoor plants both across Australia, and beyond.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification, general characteristics of the ferns, main groups, information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
  2. Culture
    • Planting, mulching, watering, pest & disease, feeding, pruning, protection from wind, salt air, etc.
  3. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating ferns. Propagation of selected varieties.
  4. The Most Commonly Grown Varieties.
    • Maidenhairs, tree ferns, stags, elks, common ground ferns.
  5. Other Important Groups
    • Blechnum, Nephrolepis, Pteris, etc.
  6. Other Varieties
    • Hares foot ferns, Bracken, Fans.
  7. Making the Best Use of Native Ferns
    • In containers, in the ground, as indoor plants, growing and showing, growing for profit (to sell the plants or what they produce).
  8. Special Assignment
    • A major project on one genera of ferns.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Discuss the diverse range of ferns native to Australia and the plant naming and classification system.
  • Describe the cultural requirements of ferns
  • Propagate ferns and identify various propagating media and methods.
  • Describe a range of ferns that are commonly grown and freely available at nurseries.
  • Explain the significance of a range of important Australian fern species
  • Differentiate less common species of Australian fern genera
  • Demonstrate more in depth the knowledge acquired through research, of a specific group of ferns.

Australia is home to a wide variety of ferns; and many Australian Ferns have become popular garden, or indoor plants in places beyond their natural habitat.  Certain Australian tree ferns for instance, are extremely popular in the United Kingdom. Australian Maiden hair Ferns are widely grown as indoor plants both across Australia, and beyond.

In order to grow ferns successfully you will need an understanding of the types of conditions that ferns prefer to grow in. This can be somewhat achieved b looking at their natural environment. The habitat is moist, sheltered, shady and protected from winds often in gullies or near waterways such as creeks or streams. Once you have an awareness of their natural preference and habitat it is possible to recreate these conditions artificially in a garden, glasshouse or shade-house.

Ferns are normally propagated by either growing from spores, or by tissue culture techniques. A few species can be grown by other methods such as division or budding off of new plants at the ends of old plants. Maidenhair, Stags and Elks, and fishbones are some of the more common ones which will grow by division. However, commercial production of these is increasingly being done by tissue culture or spore.

What Ferns to Grow?

The modern world has many environmental problems that did not occur in the past; and it is often the more tender species of plants and animal that are first affected by those changes.

Frogs (which must have a moist environment to survive) are affected adversely by various chemical pollutants that appear harmless to other forms of animal life (eg. The use of glyphosate –also known as zero or roundup –has been linked to decline of frog populations. Ferns which also frequently require a moist environment (though there are exceptions), have also been badly affected by environmental change.

  • In Australia; weeds such as Lantana and Privet; along with imported grass species, have competed strongly with ferns causing their decline in many areas.
  • Imported species of slugs and snails have also devastated ferns in areas where native slugs and snails were never a major problem.
  • In some areas, higher levels of nutrients in the environment (from effluent and fertilizers) have encouraged the growth of liverworts and algae at the expense of ferns.
  • The mobility of diseases has been increased by many of mans activities; and that in turn has resulted in the more susceptible plant species (often ferns) being infected and going into decline.

SELECTING PLANTS FOR THE NEW WORLD
With changes such as these in our environment; it has become important to select and cultivate resistant varieties of ferns that will suit the needs of urban and domestic use.
Reference:
“Within a species, native ferns can be selected, bred and developed to certain characteristics that are genetically inherent although not generally obvious, in much the same way that a terrier dog can be bred for black or white ears.  For example: Sticherus flabellatus, as it is generally obvious, has a long running rhizome, seldom branching, with fronds arising sparsely, up to 18 inches apart, tall and rangy.
On the side of a mountain called “The Castle” on the NSW south coast, a patch of Sticherus flabellatus is hanging grimly to the windswept face of a vertical cliff, exposed to the sun,  heat, cold and persistent winds. These plants have probably existed there for thousands of years, and have developed their own latent characteristics to cope with the environment. Rhizomes are short & branching every 2-3 inches. The fronds are stiff and erect, short, dense and compact, and arise as frequently as every inch along the rhizome. From this plant has been bred the Sticherus flabellatus we are producing today”
A.G. Sonter of Sonters Fern Nursery (Springwood, NSW), IPPS

CHARACTERISTICS REQUIRED
The ideal characteristics sought in a fern (for commercial production)  will vary from species to species; but may include:

Compact Growth
For many, but not all species; a more compact growth makes the plant denser, and more suited to pot culture.

Hardiness
Many ferns will defoliate rapidly under hot or dry conditions. Species that resist this, are favored. Some species will tolerate frost, salt, winds and other conditions better than others. For indoor plants, a tolerance of different air conditions may be a desirable factor also.

Balance & Form
The shape must be good; the fern needs to be strong and stable (particularly if tall); and not lanky or with sparse foliage.

Disease Resistance
Disease is the singly the biggest problem for any fern Nursery. Plants must be kept very moist to grow; but that same moisture tends to encourage disease.

Adaptability to Commercial Production
The main concerns are economic ones: a new variety must be able to be produced in large numbers rapidly after it has been developed or selected. Often this is difficult because of problems with either germinating or growing on the spore.

Problems involved with Spore Production

  • Spores often have a high surface tension, floating on the surface of water. They are difficult to get wet. This appears to be more of a problem when spores from older plants are collected –often the type of spores collected in the wild. Wetting agents have been applied, but this does nothing to improve the situation.
  • Some spores have a dormancy built in so that spores from a batch may germinate progressively over many years.
  • Some spores only germinate in large numbers after experiencing a sequence of temperature conditions (eg. Cyathea bayleyana needs to be exposed to temperatures varying from 10 to 30 degrees celsius, before significant germination occurs.
  • Some spores carry algae or fungal diseases that will kill or impair the growth of the germinating fern
  • Fungicide sprays tend to kill young prothalli
  • Some species prothalli tend to attract salts out of soils & form salt crystals on the prothallus –killing the young fern.
  • Some species have very specific temperature, pH, moisture or aeration requirements to grow.
  • Some spores have a symbiotic relationship with a certain fungi or mycorrhyze –which may not be present in a nursery.
  • Rate of germination or rate of growth (too slow or too fast) can sometimes be a problem with certain species.
  • Some ferns drop lower leaves before spores have matured enough to germinate.

 

WHERE WILL THIS COURSE TAKE YOU?

  • Become an expert in Australian native ferns
  • Extend your knowledge for working in Australian nature parks
  • Design ferneries using Australian native ferns
  • Extend your care and maintenance skills for working in ferneries

 

HOW TO ENROL

Click box below on left hand side -follow instructions.

 

 IF YOU NEED ADVICE - click here to use our FREE ADVISORY SERVICE

 
 
 
 

More from ACS