Growing up in Florida my mom always had a staghorn fern in the yard. I never thought too much about them until I got older. That was when I started noticing how f-ing big these things get! Also, how weird is it that they just hang out and don’t need to be planted or watered? These observations led me to investigate this cooky plant.
Platycerium, commonly referred to as staghorn or elkhorn ferns due to the shape of their leaves fronds, are native to regions far warmer than CoMo. Staghorn ferns are a lot like me in some ways (e.g., they don’t like being cold) and unlike me in others (e.g., low maintenance). Though these odd-looking plants probably are not what comes to mind when someone says fern, they are indeed a species of fern.
Staghorns are epiphytes, meaning they grow (harmlessly) on other plants and get their nutrients from the air. So don’t try to plant them in dirt, they really can live on seemingly nothing! Apparently air is quite nutritious seeing as these things get ginormous (more than 3 feet in diameter and over 100 pounds).
In many botanical gardens (and my mom’s yard) you will see staghorns as pictured above, hanging from a wire and growing spherically. In researching these gentle giants, I found that many people sell them mounted on wood. I think this is kind of great because if you put one on your wall, it is basically the vegan version of a stag’s head mounted on your wall. My mom gave me a fawnhorn (get it?) that I brought back to CoMo with me. Right now it is dangling from a curtain rod and looks vaguely like a ham hock hanging in the window, which is probably pretty weird for my neighbors. It will have to be an inside fern until the summer when I can put it outside, kind of like a kid that gets to live with dad in the summer.
Update January 2018: Okay, well they do need water, quite a lot of it in fact! What I’ve found works best is to soak this sucker in water once a week to get it nice and wet. She’s still kicking one year later, but now she’s sitting in a bowl (instead of hanging in the window) so the water can pool around her. She seems to like it!
Garden Club Activity
After a quick Google search I found you can order staghorns from a number of online shops. Get some clubbies to order one and then gather the needed supplies to make an awesome wall mount for your staghorns or, if it comes with one, decorate it to look like a hunting trophy! The video below has some instructions.
Viewer Advisory Warning: This video contains graphic staghorn vs. saw violence.