Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tree fern watering

We've had some odd weather over the last fortnight.  Odd for Plymouth, that is.  Cold and dry, with winds from the east, not cool and wet with winds from the south-west.  Although we have managed to avoid the ice and snow that have hit more northern and eastern parts of the UK its the dryness that has been the problem.  I've even had to water a few of my outside pots.  And my Dicksonia antarctica tree fern.  Always a bit risky when temperatures can still drop below freezing at night. 

But it is essential.  At this time of year the new fronds are a mass of tightly coiled, hairy, brown constructions in the centre of the previous year's fronds.  If they freeze hard, they die.  But if they dry out they also die.  Providing the apical meristem, buried deeply at the top of the tree fern 'trunk', survives, new fronds will develop and thrust their way through the remains.  But you'll lose the early flush for that year - and it's usually the best one.

So, some mornings, when the temperature edges up to around 4-5C or slightly more, the centre gets a soaking.  So that this....

Tight furled young fronds of Dicksonia antarctica
will develop to this....

Opening frond of Dicksonia antarctica

...and flush to produce another year's shuttlecock of fronds.

Emerging fronds of Dicksonia antarctica in May 2011
The display should be better this year.  Winter has been mild enough (fingers tightly crossed) that last year's fronds are still green and healthy.  Which means the head will be even more impressive than it has been for the last couple of years when frost has crisped the older fronds.

1 comment:

  1. A spring spectacle that we always look forward to, tree ferns flushing!