Notice

Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Platycerium superbum de Jonch. & Hennipman

Large epiphytic fern with sterile ‘nest leaves’ forming a large mass at the top of the plant, the branched fertile fronds pendant and often very long.  Plantlets are not formed as in Platycerium bifurcatum.  [RHSD, Hortus, FNSW].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced to Britain from Moreton Bay by Alan Cunningham in 1828.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Plants sent to James Backhouse on 10th April 1846 [MP A2933-1, p.136].  Plants were also sent to Loddiges’ nursery around the same time [MP A2933-1, p.147] and in 1845.  Macarthur wrote to Loddiges’ on 6th January 1845 extolling its virtues: ‘I do not find that you have written expressly for Acrostichum grande, but I can scarcely doubt that it will be very acceptable on account of its exceeding beauty and the facility with which it can be grown.  We found them measuring as much as 6 feet 6 inches between the extreme points of the upper pair of fronds and with the depending fronds more than 6 feet long.  As it never increases itself except by seeds you will probably require your supplies of them from this country for many years to come.  I shall take care therefore to be well provided with them, having through Mr. Bidwill’s and Captain King’s assistance ascertained whence they may at all times be obtained.  I can scarcely imagine a more beautiful plant for a conservatory.  Although it will not bear frost it appears to be impatient of a high temperature.  Shade and abundant moisture with a temperature of from 70º to 80º cause it to grow rapidly and soon to acquire a most elegant form.  A small plant Mr. Bidwill gave me just two years ago is attached to a stucco work near the corner of a verandah but so situated as to be almost constantly in the shade.  It grew scarcely at all the first year, from having been kept too dry.  Since last winter it has grown with great rapidity and is now about 4 feet across the upper pair of fronds with depending fronds nearly 4 feet long.  I wish I could convey such a plant to you but it would fill a large case by itself and be disfigured after all.’  [MP A2933-2, p.28].

‘It is difficult to get Platycerium grande of smallish size but if you wish it I could put some much larger than I have sent you, plants that would soon furnish themselves with huge fronds, in fact I have some pretty large now but could get them very much larger.’  Macarthur to Loddiges’ Nursery, 13th February, 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.172].  These plants may be Platycerium bifurcatum (Cav.) C.Chr. which see.

‘We have growing here amongst a number of others supplied by Captain King a specimen of Platycerium so very distinct in habit from every other plant of P. grande that I cannot help suspecting it to be a distinct species.  The whole plant is perfectly free from any pubescence with the veins of very deep purple and extending far downwards and of very different form from any of the others.  It is about to fructate and I will preserve the fertile fronds for you. [ … ] It will be almost certain to arrive safely being well established upon its block of wood.’  Macarthur to Sir William Hooker, 1st February, 1849 [MP A2933-1, p.177.  Macarthur is probably referring to Platycerum superbum here, the nest leaves of which are glabrous when older.

Notes

Macarthur’s plant is not Acrostichum grande Hook., synonym Platycerium grande (Fee) C.Presl, a plant from Asia at this time  mistaken for both Platycerium bifurcatum and Platycerium superbum.  There is little doubt that Macarthur obtained and grew both species.  See also Platycerium bifurcatum (Cav.) C.Chr.

Published Feb 11, 2009 - 01:47 PM | Last updated Jul 29, 2010 - 05:27 PM

Family Polypodiaceae
Category
Region of origin

Australia, from northern NSW through Queensland

Synonyms
  • Platycerium grande auctt. non Feé
  • Acrostichum grande Hort.
Common Name

Staghorn fern

Name in the Camden Park Record

Acrostichum grande 

Confidence level

high