September Fern Society
In September, San Diego Fern Society will meet on the second Thursday of the month, September 14. We are privileged to have Herb Halling as our guest. Herb is active in the Los Angeles Fern Society (LAIFS) and also a member of SDFS. He is a grower of Platyceriums as well as other interesting plants, and will share from his three months in China, touring botanical gardens. On this trip he found just a few Platyceriums but it was the adventure of a lifetime!
Report on August meeting
In August, the Fern Society held a short meeting on care of new ferns. Those in attendance were able to share experiences on the topics of re-planting, soil mix for various species, water considerations and growing environment.
After the 2017 Fern Show 2017
The August Fern Show demonstrated to the public the wide variety of ferns appropriate for patios and gardens in this climate. This year plants were not judged, but rather just enjoyed by Society members and Show guests. Around seven persons brought in plants, with about 90 ferns on display. They represented small terrarium ferns, greenhouse grown ferns, tree ferns, container and basket grown ferns along with the ever popular Staghorn Ferns.
Guests were able to view some ferns grown from spores and also a display on California native ferns. The Show hosts interacted and answered questions from the public during this Saturday and Sunday event. Music and art added to the Show.
Fern Sale
Bart Keeran, Second Vice-president, arranged for ferns to sell at the August Show. Some plants were surplus from the San Diego County Fair display and some acquired from growers. A few members sold plants on consignment.
Although the Sales area seemed full of plants on Saturday morning, by Saturday evening most were sold. All but one of the Platyceriums sold on Saturday, so fortunately we were able to provide a few more which nearly all sold on Sunday.
P stemaria Don copy1
This Platycerium stemaria becomes a piece of botanical art, with the uneven but complementary fronds and a volunteer Adiantum. The plant is one of many beautiful Platycerium ferns shown by Don Callard, 2017 San Diego Fern Show. Below: Closer view. Photos credit: K. Russell.

Eating Ferns? Not too much ...
Comment from Kathie Russell: I am frequently asked about ferns as food. At the recent Show, more inquiry came again from our guests. This is a tricky question. People around the world are known to consume ferns and over thirty are listed as food by Jones (Reference 3), but there are concerns.

In conversation with Sue Olsen she let me know that Matteuccia struthiopteris, the Ostrich Fern, is the state vegetable of Vermont. At the time, I had no idea ferns were a vegetable to eat! She further informs that these fiddleheads are the largest export crop of New Brunswick, Canada. Her information is that they are best and nutritionally safest when cooked for at least 10 minutes, such as sautéd or baked with butter and garlic.
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A bucket of New Brunswick fiddleheads, ready to prepare. Photo credit: New Brunswick Tourism, Creative Commons.

John Mickel of New York has grown plants of Matteuccia struthiopteris, and reports that they are strong growers in the northern states. Spreading by underground runners, his ferns proliferated such that he needed to divide them and give plants away. He suggests cutting the fiddleheads in the spring when they are two or three inches tall, tightly coiled. Removing all the fiddleheads does not generally kill the plant but he does say to only cut a portion to avoid weakening the fern. He recommends washing off the tan scales and boiling the fiddleheads for three to four minutes, then drain and eat.
The Canadian government has a Fiddlehead safety page on the Health Department website:
Bracken Fern, Pteridium aquilinum, was studied in the past for carcinogenic properties, that is, potentially causing cancer. Experiments with laboratory rats suggested that consuming a relatively small amount of Bracken carcinogen for a long period results in a high incidence of certain tumors, but also that the carcinogen in Bracken can be removed to some extent by treatment with boiling water.
Robbin Moran provides a more extensive discussion of Bracken Fern in Chapter 21: Bracken, the poisoner (Reference 6). In favorable growing conditions, Bracken becomes an aggressive weed, blocking out other plants. Moran reports that veterinarian James Herriot of England, author of All Creatures Great and Small, sometimes had to treat horses suffering Bracken poisoning. Bracken contains several toxins.
With Asian cuisine using the Bracken fiddleheads, San Bernardino National Forest found the need to issue permits and limitations on fern collecting.
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 Sign near Palomar Observatory, San Diego County in 2007. Photo credit: Brian Russell.

Three British fernists, Roger Golding, Pat Acock and Paul Ripley, spent a week viewing ferns around Taiwan. With the assistance of local botanists they were able to see around 260 different fern species during their travels, perhaps a third of the available ferns in Taiwan. The local hosts insisted on serving stewed partially open fiddleheads of Asplenium nidus as part of a meal for the British guests.

Ferns as Food in China
Excerpts from Food uses of ferns in China (Reference 2)
Edible ferns are considered to be important wild vegetables in China. The authors, associated with Minzu University of China, created an ethnobotanical inventory of 52 species of edible ferns. The Bracken Fern Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum, was considered the most common of the edible ferns in China. The authors find that food uses of wild plants are not only common in developing countries, but also in Japan, Europe and North America. Edible ferns are among of the most common wild plants collected by people worldwide, with stems, rhizomes, leaves, young fronds and shoots used for food.
The edible ferns discussed in ancient Chinese literature are found in Shi-Jing (Book of Odes), from about 3000 years ago, with Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum (or juecai in Chinese) and Osmunda japonica (or weicai in Chinese). Using fern fronds was further described in ancient books about 1800 years ago. Eating ferns was popular during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907). Many poets described, praised or admired edible ferns in their poems.
Currently the most common ferns used as food in traditional communities are Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum (juecai), Callipteris esculenta, Osmunda japonica (weicai), Pteridium revolutum and Ceratopteris thalictroides. The Bracken Fern Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum is widely distributed in China, with strong growth and many fronds in spring. The starchy rhizomes can be harvested in the fall. This species is the most popular fern in China, consumed by a billion people. The most common dish is made of stir-fried fresh or dry fern fronds, sometimes together with other foods.
In China, local markets carry fern food products such as dried fronds, salted fronds, packaged fronds, fern starch, fern starch noodles, fern starch cakes, and fern leaf tea.
Researchers have studied the chemical components of edible ferns. The Bracken Fern is the most concerning, with the component ptaquiloside considered to be highly carcinogenic. As this compound is unstable in water, washing fronds in water for hours or days to remove the bitter flavor will reduce the risk. Since Chinese people are unlikely to stop their use of Bracken Fern, the authors suggest that the Chinese government should issue safety standards for the thousands of companies producing fern food products. They also offer a list of many other Chinese ferns which should be safer than Bracken Fern for human consumption.

Prepared Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum, in Chinese called Juecai, with additional vegetable garnish. Photo credit: Bobbie Lee, Chinese Wikipedia.

 Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum, Juecai, in Chinese characters.

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Pteridium aquilinum growing through other plants to about eight feet tall. Montana de Oro State Park, San Luis Obispo County CA. Photo taken in the month of September. Photos this page credit: K. Russell.

1.     Golding, R., Acock, P., & Ripley, P. (2017). Notes on an excursion to Taiwan. Pteridologist 6(4). 289-294.
2.     Hirono, I., Shibuya, C., Fushimi, K., & Haga, M. (1970), Studies on carcinogenic properties of bracken, Pteridium aquilinum. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 45(1). 179-188.
3.     Jones, D.L. (1987). Encyclopaedia of ferns: An introduction to ferns, their structure, biology, economic importance, cultivation, and propagation. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
4.     Liu, Y., Wujisguleng, W. & Long, C. (2012). Food uses of ferns in China: A review. Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae, 81(4), 263-270. DOI: 10.5586/asbp.2012.046. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
5.     Mickel, J. (1994). Ferns for American gardens. New York: Macmillan.
6.     Moran, R. (2004). A natural history of ferns. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

7.     Olsen, S. (2007). Encyclopedia of garden ferns. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

San Diego Fern Show 2017

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Above and Below: Tropical and subtropical ferns which are best kept in protection from cold.
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Cyathea cooperi 'Garrod's form' copy1
A special variety of Sphaeropteris cooperi, also known as Cyathea cooperi. This is Garrod's form, brought to our Show by Bart Keeran. Gardeners will be interested to see how this tree fern matures.

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Adult guests entering the 2017 Fern Show viewed the swan fountain with Marsellia drummondii prepared by Kathy Thomson, terrariums and Selaginella kraussiana in a tabletop display surrounded by ferns such as Phlebodium aureum and Adiantum peruvianum. Shorter guests (the children) went directly to the stick horses. Turning to the right, lower photo, ferns are displayed on tables and hangers.
A large Aglaomorpha meyeniana (below) owned by Don Callard was impressive, with its unusual fronds (center). Fronds are brown papery at the base, green above with fertile pinnae towards the end of the frond. Sori appear as a string of beads. This plant is native to Philippines and Taiwan and should be protected from cold. Photos this page credit: K. Russell.

Aglaomorpha meyeniana Don31
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1Goniophlebium subauriculatum Knightiae Bob copy 2
Goniophlebium subauriculatum Knightiae owned by Bob Charlton is healthy and has outlasted its basket container. Fortunately a plant stand from Bob's collection displayed the fern so Fern Show guests could appreciate the numerous feathery fronds growing in many directions.

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Platycerium 'Horne's Surprise', an interesting and attractive cultivar shown by Don Callard. Photos this page credit: K. Russell    
Kathie Russell
San Diego Fern Society Officers

Kathy Thomson
1st Vice President OPEN
2nd Vice President
Bart Keeran
Kathie Russell
Jay Amshey
Board Members:
Bruce Barry
Bob Charlton Richard Lujan
Past President
Don Callard

Webmaster: Bob Charlton

Fern Society email

Bring $12 cash or check to a meeting or mail to:
San Diego Fern Society
2350 Jennifer Ln
Encinitas CA 92024

The San Diego Fern Society was formed to provide a source of information on ferns; to arrange for people to study ferns together; and to encourage the use and enjoyment of ferns in gardens, patios, and the home.

The Society aims to encourage all horticultural activities by example, education, exhibits, and donations; to interest people in the beauty and satisfaction to be found in garden, patio and home living; to promote and stimulate interest in ferns; to encourage and develop culture of various types and varieties of ferns; to provide for the exchange and dissemination among Society members of information relating to culture of ferns.

Volume XXXXI, Number 9