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Subject: What is this?

 Hi Shawn!

 What is this and what should I do about it?

holly fern spores

Photo by Layne Lillie

The other night Shawn called me in to see a picture in an email (I do have permission to use the picture and question.) Doesn’t it look horrible?

Yes, those are suppose to be there. The little green dots are the spores that can become new little Holly fern plants. When we finish an install we always tell the customers to email us a picture if they have any questions about the health of the plants. Sigh, what a relief nothing was wrong!

Holly fern at Ravenscourt Gardens.

Holly fern at Ravenscourt Gardens.

Holly fern, Cyrtomium falcatum Family: Polypodiaceae (the polypody fern Family). These fern do well in shady places but will also tolerate sun better than most fern.  Because of those little spores they do spread, which in the right spot is great.  The mature spores drop in late summer and you will see new plants the next spring. They can also be grown from rooted bulbils collected from the base. Holly fern make great border plants or understory plants and look lovey contrasted with brighter green plants like hostas and Creeping Jenny. We use them around the back of our pier and beam house to hide the gap. They have been popular in the south as porch plants since the 1800’s and they do come in a dwarf version. It is also called Japanese Holly fern and is native to Japan and Asia. This makes it a great plant to use in a Japanese style garden. It grows in rounded mounds with arching stems about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It looks prickly but it is actually quite soft. I love the dark green glossy leaves.  The name come from the look of the individual pinnae, which are serrated with sharp points, and have a resemblance to holly leaves. The Spores are light green, like in the photo our client sent, when they are young. As they mature they turn darker looking almost black. In Houston Holly ferns are evergreen but the tips of the leaves can turn black if there is a hard frost. In colder climates it loses its fronds in the winter. They are hardy, drought tolerant and very low maintenance. They prefer well drained soil. We find using an all purpose organic fertilizer keeps our soil health and naturally aerated which helps with drainage.

Happy Gardening!