Woodwardia orientalis Oriental chain fern

Epithet means "from the East."

Evergreen, 3 to 5 ft. or more (90 to 150 cm). Zones 9 and 10.

description: The scaly short ascending rhizome gives rise to a vase of bright green ovate fronds atop a thick green stipe that can be up to one-half the length of the frond. The blade, like those of so many woodwardias, is pinnate-pinnatifid with pointed toothy pinnae. A mature frond produces an astonishing number of little plantlets, suggestive of baby Japanese maple seeds (samaras), on the upper surface. These are directly above the soral location and will inhibit the growth of

Majestic fronds of Woodwardia fimbriata accented by a snag at Elandan Gardens.

A close look at a frond of the Mexican Woodwardia martinezii in the Peters garden in Germany.

Plantlets on the frond of Woodwardia orientalis var. formosana in the Kennar garden.

Rosy new growth on Woodwardia orientalis var. formosana in a container planting with Leucothoe at the Washington Park Arboretum.

the sorus. Without these, the sori develop in the typical chainlike fashion. There may be hundreds of plantlets, the fern's reforestation project, which will root readily when firmed onto moist soil in a humid environment.

range and habitat: In nature it grows in the forests of Japan, China, Taiwan, the Himalayas, and the Philippines.

culture and comments: I keep my plant in an unheated greenhouse during the winter, but this is an excellent candidate for warm areas including heated greenhouses. Fronds heavily dressed in buds tend to droop, so basket culture is ideal. Wherever grown, fertile plants are certain to be a conversation piece. Propagation is easily achieved with the buds. Give some away!

Var. formosana differs from the type in being slightly less cold hardy and having even larger fronds with matching ornamental plantlets that are rosy red in new growth. use lean soil and withhold fertilizer to enhance color.

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