Scale Leaves And Lateral Leaves

by Chuck Nishihira

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love looking at Selaginellas. Every weekend I would go with my mom and neighbor to swap meets to sell plants. Among the tropical plants that my parents would grow were a couple of Selaginellas. We had masses of Sellaginella uncinata growing on the black cinder that covered the floor of the greenhouses.  Such a beautiful sight.  I must have been around 10 when I first tried growing some S. uncinata for myself. I was curious as to why some patches turned very blue while other patches were a little on the greener side.  To supercede the readers thought, I have to remind everyone that not only was I young, but this was a long time ago! It is obvious now why the color changed with growing conditions.  But those early experiences with Selaginellas cemented my fascination with them until today. I still enjoy trying to figure out how to grow every species that I am lucky enough to receive. And seeing that knowledge turn into healthy plants is so rewarding.

I notice with Selaginellas I am particularly fascinated with all of the subtle differences. How the same idea of scale leaves and lateral leaves can create such a visually varied genus of plants. These small differences delight me as I try to figure out why one species strikes my imagination while another similar species doesn’t (at least not quite as much!).  Some of the smallest traits, those not readily picked up by a normal inspection, seem to influence if a species looks soft, hard, sharp, dainty, and a variety of other adjectives. Of course in some ways it is a double edged sword as it makes identifying closely related species from one another very difficult for the average hobbyist. Here is a small gallery of Selaginellas close up to show the small variation from one species to the next.  I think one day, I would like to have names for all of the species in my collection.  But for now I’m okay with just trying my best to grow the ones I find particularly beautiful.

Leave a Reply