Staghorn Fern - Platycerium andinum 'Blake'

Staghorn Fern - Platycerium andinum 'Blake'

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Platycerium andinum 'Blake' is the only staghorn naturally grown in the Americas.  It's common name is American Staghorn and comes form Peru and Bolivia.  These photos are from the valley of the Rio Hualtqaga in Peru.  The forest, called the Tropical Dry Forest of Peru, is in danger of being cut down as land is converted to farming acreage and man's need to expand.  The size of the forest is estimated to be only 12,000 acres.  The P. andinum 'Blake' is recognized as the most natural cultivar known for this species.

Platycerium andinums are tall slender staghorns.  The shield fronds form very distinctive crown like tops and when the fern is well established around the tree, it looks like a crown from all sides.  The andinum grows new shield fronds once a year in the winter and then they turn brown.  The shield fronds, are thick, possibly 1/8th of an inch thick.  The shape of the bottom of the shield frond is like a bowl.  The vertical portion of the shield frond has hexagonal shaped veins, similar to a P. madagascariense but shallow.  Some writers say it looks like a large P. quadridichotomum from Madagascar.  Recent DNA testing shows their close relationship.  Fertile fronds droop down with many forks and the spore patches tend to be in the center of the fertile fronds and not the tips which, continue to grow.

New pups tend go form horizontally from the bud and eventually form a circle around the host tree. This is called a ring type basket.  Unlike the P. coronarium, the rhizome does not split and grow horizontally.  The pups from from roots and grow a crown like the P. coronarium.  It is estimated that it takes 10 to 20 years for a crown to form in the forest.  But a hobbyist grower can possibly mount several small plants around a pole and form a nice crown in less time. 

Platycerium andinum does not like full sun, or great amounts of water.  Its native environment averages 35 inches of rain a year with March the wettest month with 8.2 inches of rain.  Some months get very little rain.  It grows best on trees with rough bark like the quinilla tree, but not palms.  It can be grown on plaques of wood, as it is here.