Saturday, December 22, 2012

Southern Shield Fern - Graceful and Adaptable

Thelypteris kunthii - Southern Shield Fern

Southern Shield Fern is one of the most graceful ferns in the woods. Its deciduous, soft-looking fronds make it one of the most appealing of our native ferns, and its very adaptable to the southern garden.

The botanical name is Thelypteris kunthii (pronounced the-LIP-ter-iss KUN-thee-eye). Thelypteris means "female fern." The species was named to honor the life and work of Karl Sigismund Kunth (1788-1950), a noted German botanist. Kunth classified plants that had been collected by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland when they traveled through America.

According to the USDA PLANTS database, its range is from North Carolina southward to Florida and westward to Texas. It is also present in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, perhaps because it arrived and found the islands to its liking. It's usually found growing near the coast or streams.

Southern Shield Fern is also known as Dryopteris normalis, Dryopteris saxatilis, Thelypteris macrorhizoma, Thelypteris normalis, Thelypteris unca, Southern Shield Fern, Southern Wood Fern, Southern Maiden Fern, River Fern and Widespread Maiden Fern.

You don't need to live near the coast to grow Southern Shield Fern successfully. It tolerates short-term dry spells, and performs well in USDA climate zones 7 to 10.

Choose a planting site in partial shade with moist soil, high in organic matter and well-drained with pH between 6.1 to 7.8. Take a soil sample to your nearby Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. Follow the recommendations. Tilling won't be necessary.

Southern Shield Fern grows to 36 inches high and 36 inches across. Dig planting holes about 24 inches to 30 inches apart. The holes should be no deeper than that of the root balls. Water the plants in their pots, then plant them, watering more as you go. When planted, the tops of the root balls should be visible; do not bury them under soil.

Southern Shield Fern Fern is deer resistant. Like most other ferns, it's great in massed plantings and for naturalizing as a ground cover. Include it in fern collections, native plant collections, bog gardens, shade gardens and woodland gardens.

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