Elkhorn Fern, Dwarf Elkhorn Fern, Climbing Bird’s Nest Fern, Terrestrial Elkhorn Fern, Fishtail Strap Fern, Fishtail Fern…
To make this page less confusing, links to information regarding the species names are attached to the highlighted names of the websites.
I bought my Dwarf Elkhorn Fern from Lowe’s in Greenville, Mississippi in October 2011. I was living at the mansion in Leland at the time and was enjoying collecting plants. I am not sure what the label said the name of this plant was when I bought it and my original information is on the old laptop that won’t come on. I am not sure how many times I have changed the name of the photos. Nor am I sure what the current “real” accepted name is. The websites that I normally go to for up-to-date taxon all say differently.
Supposedly, the most up-to-date website is the new Plants of the World Online by Kew (Royal Botanic Gardens). They were new in 2017 and still uploading data. Several times they have had different names than the other “most reliable” sources but they always have a good reason. This time was a different story… The Plant List was my favorite site for plant name research but it hasn’t been maintained since the 2013 version update.
Plants of the World Online list no species in any of the genera typically associated with the Elkhorn Fern, as a current accepted name or synonym. Searching the web for the current correct and accepted scientific name left me somewhat amused… Not confused, however, because I have become numb (not to be confused with “dumb”.). Plants of the World Online does list 48 accepted green in the family Polypodiaceae. This website is fairly new and is still uploading data and hope to be finished in 2020. As with all databases, and this blog, it is a continual and perpetual work in progress.
Polypodium punctatum Thumb. was named and described by Carl Peter Thunberg in Flora Japonica in 1874. iNaturalist says the name is an inactive taxon but Tropicos says the name is legitimate (the “!” = legitimate).
The 2013 version of The Plant List says Polypodium punctatum is a synonym of Cochlidium punctatum (Raddi) L.E.Bishop. It was described as such by Luther Earl Bishop in the American Fern Journal in 1978. Tropicos says the basionym is Grammitis punctata Raddi as described by Giuseppe Raddi in Plantarum Brasiliensium Nova Genera in 1825. What in the heck is a Cochlidium? It is a genus of sea snails and also a genus of Snail Ferns…
The USDA Plants Database, iNaturalist, The National Gardening Association, NParks Flora & Fauna Web says Microsorum punctatum (L.) Copel. is the accepted name. It was described as such by Edwin Bingham Copeland in the University of California Publications in Botany in 1929. Tropicos says this name is legitimate. Tropicos names Acrostichum punctatum L. as the basionym. It was named and described by Carl von Linnaeus in the second edition of Species Plantarum in 1763.
Dave’s Garden says the accepted name for this fern is Polypodium grandiceps while the 2013 version of The Plant List says Polypodium grandiceps G.Nicholson is an unresolved name. It was named and described by George Nicholson in The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening in 1888.
Zones: USDA Zones 10b-11 (35 to 40° F)
Size: 18-24” tall and wide
Light: Part to full shade
Soil: Consistently moist
There isn’t much online about caring for this species. I kept my Elkhorn Fern, or whatever you choose to call it, on the cypress shelf I made in the kitchen at the mansion beside the Staghorn Fern. I cared for them both the same way as they have similar requirements. They received morning sun and shade the rest of the day. I saved rainwater especially for my Elkhorn and Staghorn Fern and normally immersed their pots in a bowl of water whenever they needed it. Their soil should not dry out completely. They prefer dappled shade to part shade and their leaves will burn if in too much sun.
I had no problems with this fern but I gave it to a good friend of mine when I moved back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013. Someday I will bring home another Elkhorn Fern when i have adequate conditions.
I will update this page when I am sure what the correct and accepted scientific name is for this plant. It is either Microsorum punctatum or Polypodium punctatum, probably the Microsorium. I will send an email to the editor of Plants of the World Online.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.