Friday, March 29, 2013

(Desert) Fern Friday

This isn't the best time to see our desert ferns, AKA xerophytic ferns. But when rains and especially monsoon rains return, they burst back to life.

I remember first seeing these specialized ferns during my foothills hikes in the spring of 1992 in a formerly unfamiliar, warm and boulder-strewn land. They shrivel up during extremes of cold and heat, especially drought. And they often hide under boulders, where dew condenses extra stormwater runoff collects and lasts in the shaded soil a little longer. Passive water harvesting.

There's even a folksy song about the epiphytic resurrection ferns that grow in the oaks of the southeast, also responding to rain, by Iron and Wine - here.

I wish more were grown and sold for gardens! Just a few common desert ferns I see in my outings:
When Gary Nored generously toured me into the fringes of Big Bend Ranch State Park on Black Friday, I wasn't even thinking about ferns, even though I know they are there. I was thinking about stunning scenery fit for a desert rat.

Gary posted on desert ferns previously - here and here.

This is one example of a number of ferns I saw like this, using spiny Ocotillo as a nurse plant.

Hugging the bases of ocotillos, and growing out in the open in that chunky desert pavement

Gorgeous pattern. The naturalistic snobs in the plant world must not like this kind of thing, since they always note their dislike of people using flowers and plants under tree trunks. Maybe they need to get out some, and branch out?

Tough to cure uppity!

Looks like Cloak Fern / Astrolepis cochisensis ssp. cochisensis, though perhaps it's ssp. arizonica?
Looks like the same desert fern here on my mountain bike trail just E of Las Cruces a few years back. Since it's on limestone  this part of Tortugas Mountain, or A Mountain, it should definitely be Cloak Fern / Astrolepis cochisensis ssp. cochisensis.

This is the most common fern in my foothills haunts. It folds up in winter cold or drought, and in uber drought, it starts drying up and turning brown. It looks more like the classic ferns one sees in moist areas than some others. We have a few other desert fern species in the Sandia foothills, but I don't have photos of them yet.

Looks most like Fairy Sword / Cheilanthes lindheimeri, at least to me.
This fern is more compact and doesn't seem to fold up in winter cold or drought
stress much. It's a little less common in the Sandia foothills than the previous
fern. It's also almost exclusively granite there. And it is evergreen.

Looks to be Spiny Cliffbrake / Pellaea truncata. Everything where I live, along with  degree of drought tolerance and lack of love by all too many (especially the losers still rampant in my field), has spines or venom!

33 comments:

  1. Those are just super cool!

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    1. I especially like the desert ferns growing out in the open!

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  2. John Eustice3/29/13, 7:24 PM

    The desert ferns are outstanding,and almost never seen in gardens.
    Tohono Chul park has sold them periodically.....but unfortunately they will never be staple landscape plants-they are more for the discerning gardener.

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    1. I never have seen them in gardens - I remember Russ Buhrow who used to be at Tohono Chul telling me of them. He pointed many out to me on a drive from the Ironwood forest, to Oracle, then up the back side of Mt Lemmon. I never say never when it's a great plant for certain places...especially to a designer!

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    2. John Eustice3/30/13, 11:20 AM

      Come to Tucson and make them replace lantana!

      I didn't know Russ retired....he was a good resource over there.

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    3. Ha - how about dry shade? Some day over here in the CD, Plume Tiquilia / T. greggii will get the same treatment. I think some disewease or blight will hit lantana before it stops getting used...the HOG in Abq ever using it now, some.

      Not sure if Russ was downsized or retired...great, funny guy.

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    4. John Eustice has left a new comment on your post "(Desert) Fern Friday": I like lantana....but I like the desert ferns more. Lets use both but promote the ferns, too. What do you mean by CD?
      (I accidentally hit delete instead of publish on my "smart"phone...)

      Agreed, either has a rightful place. CD...Chihuahuan Desert, though usually I saw CDR...Chihuahuan Desert Region.

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  3. I would never really have thought there were ferns that thrived in desert conditions...amazing!

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    1. Yes, and from the links, many species! (and that's not all...)

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  4. Wow - ferns in the desert - new to me!

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    1. When you get back to CA, here are some to look for depending on habitat...some in the desert, others only in moister regimes. From the http://www.calflora.org/ website -

      http://tinyurl.com/c35ulks

      Found this one there, too - Astrolepis cochisensis

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  5. Caribbean greetings from the most documented.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200937743149750&set=a.10200937741429707.1073741836.1350951193&type=1&ref=nf

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    1. Nice looking patio on "feisbuk" as you've called it! I like the rhythm of containers.

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  6. Desert fern - had no idea there was such a thing...and a THING OF BEAUTY it is. Holy cow how incredibly beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I didn't until moving here...to think you and your husband's Big Bend trip early in your marriage was near those ferns!

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    2. I never saw them :( But that was before I became OBSESSED with gardening/plants. I would notice those now I can tell ya that!

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    3. Enlighten me on lantana....please. I thought it was a great plant to use??

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    4. Xerophytic ferns - I bet there are some in the uplands near you, as you learn the names, try this great link for some past documented locations - http://www.biosci.utexas.edu/prc/Tex.html

      Lantana - a good, tough, and very-very popular plant for color. But overuse usually results in making a species very susceptible to a disease or insect at some point. Often it is just too many of one species (monoculture) in an area, other times some cyclical or other environmental stress...happens even to native plants. So no problem now that I know, but it's always best to vary things up, even in mass plantings. Hence my comment about using desert ferns instead of lantanas in every *@%%$##*& landscape in the southern tier of the US.

      Speaking of lantana, ever tried Texas Lantana / Lantana horrida? Gorgeous - Panayoti K. in Denver is trying them there; like many Texas native plants, it can take Denver's wild temperature extremes, somehow. Took photos of thriving ones in Kerrville in 2011 I need to post in future.

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    5. Ah ha! That makes sense, thanks for that. :) YES on the horrida - I have two in the back. I am looking forward to them filling in. It is my favorite lantana by far.
      What would be your top 3 favorite plants in my area ?

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  7. Remarkable endurance ( and beauty ).

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    1. Indeed - and looking for another person who is part-time in UK / p-t in Palm Springs, many of the same species here actually span TX to California, some on remote mountain ranges with too dry of desert floors for 50+ miles in-between.

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  8. Pretty cool. One of my dreams (or delusions) is seeing a wide variety of xerophytic ferns available in the nursery trade. I don't see why they would be any more difficult to grow from spores than regular, wet-garden ferns.
    It's a strange situation.

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    1. Agreed, though it may be the xerophytic part? There's a real need to branch out from the usual xeric groundcovers in my area (juniper, trailing rosemary, etc).

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  9. When you say that the Ocotillo is a nurse plant for the Astrolepis (beautiful plant, I agree), how does that work? It doesn't look like it's providing any shade. Or in this extreme environment does that still make a difference? Or are those thorny branches on the Ocotillo directing any rain that does fall down around its root zone?

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    1. My guess is that it is channeling some rain water down to the plant, like a boulder might trap runoff. But I also think with rabbits or deer eating so much in the desert, maybe they don't wish to tangle that close to an ocotillo?

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  10. Years ago a friend and I hiked through a lava field in southeastern Oregon (Jordan Valley Craters). Surrounded by miles of lifeless black lava cooking in the 100+ degree day, we were shocked to find ferns growing in collapsed lava tube channels. You've inspired me to go back and figure out what species they were. Great post as always David.

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    1. Great, and like Bob's comments, it seems an opportunity to grow these ferns for a different texture than is common in our desert landscapes. Tho not like softer ferns, it is something different. Thanks!

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  11. It's kinduv magic, isn't it? Ferns in the desert! I hardly ever encounter them, and when I do it's a treat and a surprise. Even here, closer to the coast in the chaparral or sage scrub, it's not super-common. I guess for a group of plants to have weathered 300 million years you've got to have some serious powers to adapt and evolve to hostile environments!

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    1. Yes, and I think your report on them in So Cal chaparral also being unusual is interesting. In either of our areas, one does have to wonder how something like that has lasted for the millennia, tortured with lengthy dry periods in relic stands or otherwise. That CalFlora site is amazing to look on for your area!

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  12. Very cool plants - thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks - next time in your region, I hope to scout out some of your xerophytic ferns in the limestone outcroppings!

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  13. David your blog is most refreshing..the plants the landscapes and your outlook!

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    1. Thank you very much - seeing such resilience must be rubbing off on me? Needed that!

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