Saturday 13 June 2020

Growing ferns from spores

You may remember Martin Godfrey's article in the Spring 2019 newsletter on how to grow wild ferns from spores.  Committee member Andrew Perry has done just that and has shared some of his experience here.

Andrew collected samples last autumn, just a few pinnae from each species with ripe sporangia underneath.  The spores look like brown dust which you collect after leaving the pinnae in a paper packet in a warm dry place overnight.

Andrew sprinkled some spores onto some damp compost in jam jars, with lids to keep them moist, and left them on a shady windowsill.

The spores germinated into prothalli, spreading across the compost.  The prothalli produce male and female organs resulting in the fertilized sporophyte stage, familiar to us as the ferns.

Andrew was excited to see that after several months the prothalli had started to produce tiny ferns, just as Martin described.  Athyrium filix-femina Lady Fern was the first to develop followed by Dryopteris borreri Borrer's Scaly Male Fern.  The young fronds were transplanted into some compost in a propagator on a north facing window sill to grow on and Andrew now has six species developing.

Very easy, just requiring a little a patience.  This would be an excellent project for later in the summer when the sporangia ripen.