Fern

The chosen plant of the week this week is an oldie but a goodie, having been around for 300 million years. It is the oldest plant we have featured on our What's Growing on the Greenway blog.  It would probably be the first plant you would imagine if asked to picture the earth, when dinosaurs roamed.

Ferns covered many parts of the earth then and continue to today. In fact, our fossil fuels (natural oils and coal) created during the carboniferous period are mostly made of ferns. So think about the humble fern the next time you put the heating on or jump in your car!

Photo credit: Paul Hunter, Cregagh Glen

It is perhaps this long association with the planet that have always made ferns fashionable and resulted in them commonly being used on many decoration and textiles within clothing and home decor. Victorians were fern crazy, they presented the fern motif on pottery, glass, textiles, wood, paper even gravestones and memorials.

Just like all the other plants we have discussed, ferns have roots (rhizomes), stems and leaves (called fronds) but they don’t flower or seed. This is one of the things that sets ferns apart from other plants. Instead ferns reproduce using spores found on the underside of the fronds and can be transported by wind or animals. The spores have very little nutritive value and don’t require much energy to establish, giving them the ability to grow in difficult environments where other plants cannot. This ability to rapidly colonise means ferns can outcompete other plants, and sometimes require management to control their attempts at world domination.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter, Cregagh Glen 

 

Where to find it?

Along the Connswater Community Greenway, Cregagh Glen has an established understory of ferns which is complimented continually throughout the growing season with wildflowers. Elsewhere, ferns are growing along the river banks, understory of trees and hedges and on shady slopes.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter, Cregagh Glen 

 

Be Part of it…

Our photographers this week certainly spoilt us with a choice of images, showing the number of places and vigour variety of ferns growing throughout the Greenway. Still unfurling why not watch them spreading and see how such large leaf (frond) grows from very little.