Platycerium Andinum
American Staghorn
Crown of Angeles

 

 

Platycerium andinum 'Blake' is the only staghorn naturally grown in the Americas.  It's common name is American Staghorn and comes form Peru and Bolivia.  These photos are from the valley of the Rio Hualtqaga in Peru.  The forest, called the Tropical Dry Forest of Peru, is in danger of being cut down as land is converted to farming acreage and man's need to expand.  The size of the forest is estimated to be only 12,000 acres.  The P. andinum 'Blake' is recognized as the most natural cultivar known for this species.

P. andinums are tall slender staghorns.  The shield fronds form very distinctive crown like tops and when the fern is well established around the tree, it looks like a crown from all sides.  The andinum grows new shield fronds once a year in the winter and then they turn brown.  The shield fronds, are thick, possibly 1/8th of an inch thick.  The shape of the bottom of the shield frond is like a bowl.  The vertical portion of the shield frond has hexagonal shaped veins, similar to a P. madagascariense but shallow.  Some writers say it looks like a large P. quadridichotomum from Madagascar.  Recent DNA testing shows their close relationship.  Fertile fronds droop down with many forks and the spore patches tend to be in the center of the fertile fronds and not the tips which, continue to grow.

New pups tend go form horizontally from the bud and eventually form a circle around the host tree. This is called a ring type basket.  Unlike the P. coronarium, the rhizome does not split and grow horizontally.  The pups from from roots and grow a crown like the P. coronarium.  It is estimated that it takes 10 to 20 years for a crown to form in the forest.  But a hobbyist grower can possibly mount several small plants around a pole and form a nice crown in less time. 

Platycerium andinum does not like full sun, or great amounts of water.  It's native environment averages 35 inches of rain a year with March the wettest month with 8.2 inches of rain.  Some months get very little rain.  It grows best on trees with rough bark like the quinilla tree, but not palms.  It can be grown on plaques of wood.

Platycerium andinum is thought to be one of the more difficult Platycerium to raise from spore, but recent propagation efforts by Charles Alford in Florida have produce several hybrids with P. andinum one of the parents.  Notably is one called P. Roy Vail (P. andinum x P. madagascariense)

Roy Vail treats P. andinum much like P. elephantotis giving it bright light, a rather loose moss, evenly moist, but not wet.  P. andinum is particularly prone to rhizome rot when small.

Its closest relative are the African P. elephantotis, and the Madagascar P. quadridichotomum.  Hennipman and Roos consider it to be closer to P. quadridichotomum, because the spore patch location is similar.  Recent DNA studies show they are all of the same clade along with P. ellisi and P. alcicorne.  This clade of platyceriums all have their spore patches in the center of the fertile frond and the tips continue to grow.

 

A beautiful example of a Platycerium andinum 'Blake' growing in the wild of the Tropical Dry Forest of Peru.

Roy Vail has noted that as the fern ages and the ring grows greater in diameter, new plants do not establish to fill in the gaps, but the existing ferns tend to grow larger and fill in the gaps in the ring.  It is believed you can count the number of shield frond layers and determine the age of the plant.  Older P. andinum have larger rings of plants and younger ones are close to the trunk of the tree.

      

 

Dr Phil Wittman examining a young platycerium andinum.  It does not appear to have established a full ring yet.
Three rings of Platycerium andinum on two vertical branches.  They are quite young as the rings are small and close to the tree.  The andinum on the left and right has larger fertile fronds than the one in the center appears to be younger

Notice how long the fertile fronds have grown


 
Good example of how the ring forms around a tree.  This andinum is dead so we have a better view of the ring. You can see how the ring kept growing larger each year and the ring got quite large is size.  There is no obvious clue as to why the fern died.  Eventually this ring will fall from the tree and the root ball decays.
Photo from Tropicalferns.com.  Shown here to display the dark veins in and shape of the shield fronds.  Deeply forked and branched out like a tree.

     
     
 

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