Staghorn ferns get their name because their fronds look like the antlers of a Staghorn deer. These interesting antler like plants are considered epiphytes. This word comes from the Greek ‘epi’ meaning upon and ‘phyton’ meaning plant. The amazing foliage attaches to vertical spots and captures their water and other nutrients from things other than soil. Growing in tropical rainforests these plants dangle from trees and rocks and can grow to truly massive proportions as they protrude out of the crooks and crannies of trees.
All ferns have leaves or fronds, but the Staghorn fern has two types of leaves. The first are the antler like fronds that grow from the center of the plant. These are showy and quite large. Typically, they are irregularly shaped and flat.
The second type are called shield fronds. These are hard and round leaves that surround the base of the plant. They protect the plant roots and take up water and nutrients. Over time they will turn from green to brown, but that is all part of the lifespan.
Here at the Zoo we have a Staghorn fern hanging in our shade garden, across from the bison in North America, this unique piece adds vertical interest to the garden.
Be sure to check out this show stopper the next time you are at the Zoo.