Why sometimes it is good to be lazy

by Chuck Nishihira

I’m sure that if you have browsed through the photos here, you are well aware that we love filmy ferns. One thing about filmy ferns though, is that they are not always the fastest growing plants and they take a lot of patience at times.  So I have always thought it would be a great idea to raise these from spore.  Unfortunately, there is not a lot of experience out there about growing filmy ferns in this way. You do come across certain species whose growth is fast enough that it is easy to propagate them vegetatively.  I have also come across a few others that readily produce sporelings.  But what I see most of the time is great gametophyte growth (the early stage that comes directly after sowing the spore), sometimes blanketing the bottom but no sporophytes form. I have come across information that it can take several years before you see little sporelings pop up. Easily, long enough to try anyone’s patience. A few years ago, just by luck, I came across an old dying filmy fern leaf, one that I would have normally removed much earlier.  But growing off of it were some young little sporelings.  Very much like the little babies you see on Java fern leaves. A very common sight if you keep aquariums.

I tend to keep any old filmy fern leaves now.  Most just dry up and turn to leaf litter.  But, every now and then I see some growth.  In a few cases, I have gotten new fernlets. It is really a hit or miss situation, but I feel like I learn a little every time.

Here are a few photos of either gametophytes or hopefully sporophytes growing from a old decomposing Trichomanes leaf that I just left in one of my growing bins.  It is just a leaf tip, not even connected to the plant.