Back in 2010, I decided to make a serious effort to sow fern spores so that I could create a more controlled harvest of the delicate maidenhair fern. The reason i say delicate is because Los Angeles is a desert.
I don't have memorized all technical terms used in the botany world, so I'll be speaking in layman's terms. Spores are the seed-like substance that appear as freckles on the backside of a single frond (leaf). To scrape this off, I usually wait until the leaves have wilted and dried so that i can cut it off from the plant itself. A small pocket knife or x-acto blade works good for the scraping process. Normally, you'd have a clean white sheet of paper to catch the scrapings. That way, spreading them across a pot of fertile soil can be done more evenly.
When I finally saw evidence of growth, I was ecstatic. What I couldn't figure out was why the sprout-like growth didn't look anything like the fern I was trying to grow. Well, this is where it gets technical. The sprores contain hormones of both sexes, and until the male hormone fertizes the female, the sprouts don't reach adulthood due to their lacking of their full genetic ID. For instance, the sprouts that appear might only have 80-some% of the genetic ID for my fern, and once the sprout comes in contact with it's genome opposite, it then becomes what I believe is referred to as a sporophyte (tiny version of a fern frond).
I've taken pix of my little outdoors experimentatal corner.
A closeup pic of the metamorphesis that I am anxious to see is placed next to the pot in which the growth is kept. I'm doing this in various pots to get an idea of what criteria is pertinent in the proper care of sowing fern spores. In this picture of a sporophyte
, the pot was not only filled with a mixture of potting soil and sphagnum (peet moss), like the other containers, the pot itself sat on a container filled with granular sand. The container with the sand holds the excess water that drains out of the pot. This may well be the only potted example I have where I am witnessing the metamorphesis process in fruition, and without assistance.
I began late in my 2011 attempt to use a green plastic container, instead of regular see-thru plastic, to maintain moisture and humidity level. The results seem to be an improvement.
One pot, I've noticed, seems to have developed an unusual quantity of sprouts carrying the
male fertilizing characteristcs of the plant. It is the pot which contains a number of rocks on its surface. I originally did this for design, but I now feel as though the rocks may have provided some kind of temperature control which the other pots didn't have, because all ive seen in other potted attempts is the female sprouts. And lots of them.
The difference between the two sprouts, in reference to the way they look, is that the female seems to grow upward, like a blade of grass, or a macro version of a tiny palm tree. The male hormone carrying sprout seems to be like a single leaf that stays closely attached to the base where it sprouted from. If I had to give you a visual, I would say, image a clam at the bottom of the ocean.
I'm so overwhelmed with
female sprouts that ive begun to dig up plugs of them to transplant in other pots rich in male sprouts. I imagine it is a bit late in the spring to be trying this but until I am able to clearly see the results of having succeeded in the spore growing process, I won't give up.