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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bird Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus)

This attractive large leaf epiphytic fern is often seen attaching themselves to large tall trees in the nooks and crannies of its branches. The large knife shaped green leafs called fronds have a prominent dark brown midrib unfurling from a tight center, giving a bird nest effect and hence the common name.
Urbanites will usually see them at large building entrance way as it gains popularity as an ornamental plant either being hung on the ceiling, exhibited on the floor or potted individually.
I have seen excellent specimens being displayed this way right inside Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Epiphytes are herbs or shrubs, which have roots attached to trunks or branches to a host tree to get closer to sunlight which is often shadowed by trees in the forest if you are growing at ground level. They are not parasitic as they do not extract nutrients from the tree to survive and do little or no harm to its host

It is self sufficient, with its entire mass soaking up rain water which acts as a sponge storing water when it rains and its nest-like form collecting dead leaves or any potential nutrient which happen to drop onto it that will eventually decompose and thereby forming nutrients for extraction.

For propagation, spores develop on the underside of fronds known as coenosori. The ripe spores can be collected and sow on damp peat and let to germinate in our hot and humid climate. Care should be taken to keep the growing medium constantly moist, when new plants are big enough to handle, it should be potted individually to encourage faster growth.

No soil is needed for its growth although I have seen “domesticated“ specimens being potted and maintained with soil in homes. In the wild, it is often seen growing in the protected environment in the canopy or crowns of large trees offering a bright warm, moist and humid condition.

Which brings to mind, how Isabella L.Bird (1831 – 1904) a nineteenth-century English traveller, writer,and a natural historian while travelling through the Malay Peninsular jungles during the mid 1800s described the splendor of the Bird Nest Fern she saw in her book "The Golden Chersonese and the way thither" –

"The trees and plants of the jungle were very exciting. Ah! what a delight it is to see trees and plants at home which one has only seen as the exotics of a hothouse, or read of in books! In the day’s journey I counted one hundred and twenty-six differing trees and shrubs, fifty-three trailers, seventeen epiphytes, and twenty-eight ferns. I saw more of the shrubs and epiphytes than I have yet done from the altitude of an elephant’s back. There was one Asplenium nidus [bird’s nest fern] which had thirty-seven perfect fronds radiating from a centre, each frond from three and a quarter to five and a half feet long, and varying from myrtle to the freshest tint of pea-green!"


Tabib said...

I wonder if anybody documented any bird actually nesting in that fern.
Malay called it 'Paku Langsuir' where some kind of ghost sit there.

Tung Kin Foong said...

I have personally seen a egg in the plant I keep at home but I don't see a nest. Maybe a bird laid an egg there out of desperation or maybe it is a snake's egg?