Hobbyist's Guide to Identifying Platyceriums
Staghorn Ferns and/or Elkhorn Ferns
By Herb Halling
Los Angeles International Fern Society - LAIFS

Spore Info   Redwood Mounting Boards   Growing Seasons   Roy Vail's Photos   Shade Cloth

Scroll down to learn about the different platycerium species

NOTICE,
I spent 3 months studing platyceriums and touring botanical gardens in China.
You are invited to follow my adventures at www.Facebook.com/ChinaBotanical
You can also view my free presentation on China tour, at noon, March 15, 2017 at
Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club
1601 Bayside Drive
Corona Del Mar CA

Our condolences to Charles Alford whose garden suffered damage in the Sept 2016 hurricane Mathew. 
He reports loss of office and computers from fire along with lots of wind damage

This web page is intended to help identify the different species of platyceriums.  In addition to the different species, there are dozens of different hybrids and even more cultivar within the species.  With this site I hope to encourage hobbyists to grow Platycerium Ferns and enjoy the rewards.  I also list many of my pups for sale on Craig's List and eBay.  If you find something you are interested in obtaining, contact me via email.

About the author.  When about 30 years old, I purchased a 2" potted staghorn at Sears, and to my amaze, I could not kill it.  Then while working at TRW in Redondo Beach, a co-worker obtained a signed copy of Roy Vail's book for me and I started collecting and growing platyceriums.  Eventually I got bored with the hobby and let them grow out of control in my back yard.  They all got humongous and too big to handle. They started falling off their mounts and today, 40 years later,  I have renewed interest, possibly an obsession, and have been remounting pups for sale.  Actually the plant got too big to lift back onto its mount and my savior was to cut it up and mount volunteers.  Provides a nice retirement income.  This web site is also my study of the genus platycerium and researching and developing it is my technique for learning the specifics of each species/cultivar

Currently my collection includes 23 species/hybrids:  P. andinum, P. alcicorne Africa, P. bifurcatum, P. Coronarium, P. coronarium Phillippinese, P. dawboy, P. elemaria, P. elephantotis, P. ellisii, P. grande, P. Horn's Delight, P. Horn's Dwarf, P. hillii (Jimmie, Hula Hands, Bloomei), P. holttumii, P. mt lewis, P. panama, P. ridleyi, P. stemaria White, P. superbum, P. veitchii, P. willinckii (Java, Pygmaean & Schofield)I also have a 35 year old under developed P. grande, but I suspect it may be a P. superbum.  It has been growing in full shade and I recently relocated it to a sunny location and it is now starting to grow.  Maybe in a year I will be able to see fertile fronds.  I also have a P. plastickii which is an artificial platycerium I picked up in Thailand.  LAIFS jokingly named it a P. plastickii.

NEW WATER TEST  I have been running a test comparing the growth of Platyceriums using tap water, RO water and RO water with Super Thrive.  The results are very obvious in just 14 days.

Roy Vail has generated a list of Platyceriums based upon the Degree of Difficulty in growing which every hobbyist should review.

A word about names.  The idea of personally naming a new species or cultivar is a tempting achievement and because no formal national association has stepped forward to register platycerium names, the act of naming has become a 3 ring circus with multiple acts performing concurrently.  Until DNA testing and a recognized organization takes the center ring, we need to recognize that many cultivars are duplicates with other cultivars, possibly growing in a different environment.  An example is the P. bifurcatum Netherlands and P. bifurcatum Mickey's Delight which to me are the same with different cultivar names.  Any hobbyist should take the time to research and know the difference between: a variety, a sport, and a cultivar.

Platyceriums are displayed in many ways.  In hanging baskets, on trees, and cedar and redwood boards.  The redwood boards are the most durable and we have them available on this web page.

Below you will see the many different species and hybrids identified and eventually links to more detailed pages.  The recognized species of Platyceriums are:

   
  1. Platycerium alcicorne

  2. Platycerium andinum

  3. Platycerium bifurcatum

  4. Platycerium charles alford (hybrid)

  5. Platycerium coronarium

  6. Platycerium dawboy (Hybrid)

  7. Platycerium ellisii

  8. Platycerium elephantotis

  9. Platycerium elemaria (hybrid)

  10. Platycerium grande

  11. Platycerium hillii

  12. Platycerium holttumii

  13. Platycerium hula hands

  14. Platycerium la reunion

  15. Platycerium madagascariense

  16. Platycerium majus (hybrid)

  17. Platycerium Mt. Lewis

  18. Platycerium quadridichotomum

  19. Platycerium ridleyi

  20. Platycerium silver velvet

  21. Platycerium stemaria

  22. Platycerium superbum

  23. Platycerium veitchii

  24. Platycerium wallichii

  25. Platycerium wandae

  26. Platycerium willinckii

  27. Platycerium x mentelosii (hybrid)

  28. Platycerium yanid (hybrid P. willinckii x P. hillii)

GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT PLATYCERIUMS

  • One of the keys to identifying platycerium species is in the shape and location of the spore patchs. Some are located on the tips, some in the middle of the frond, and others on lobes.  Some have two spore patches, others only one spore patch.
  • Most growers tend to over water staghorn ferns. See my thoughts on this watering problem and my water test.
  • Low light tends to reduce spore production and produce longer heavier fertile fronds.
  • High light environment tends to grow shorter, narrow fertile fronds with more spore.
  • Temperatures should be kept between 35F and 95F but many species are less tolerant of cold.
  • Good air circulation is important and can make the difference with difficult cultivars.  Too much wind is bad.
  • For care and feeding of your Platyceriums check out this web page

To read about propagating spore click on this link

 

http://home.earthlink.net/~decho/bifercatum.jpg

P. alcicorne (al-ci-corn-e) also mislabeled as P. vassei. "Alcicorne" means elk or moose antler.  P. alcicorne is very similar to P. bifurcatumEasy-to-grow species with upright fertile fronds bending down on the tips.  The P. bifurcatum is the most common species in cultivation.  Pups well. Semi-hardy to 32F (4.4C). Native to Madagascar and East Africa. 

The East Africa variety are characteristically yellow-green, waxy, hairless and dead shield fronds turn rich brown. 

The Madagascar variety are characteristically wide dark green, with many hairs.  When grown in high light, the shield fronds grow folds in the upper half of the shield. 

Normal dieing of shield fronds begins at the bud and advances toward the edges.  Narrow fertile fronds suggest a higher light environment is tolerated.  The shiny, waxy coating on the fertile fronds prevents water loss under high light.

Read more information on the P. alcicorne

Photo: Don Eckel

P. andinum, (an-DE-num).  Common Name - American Staghorn.  The only Platycerium native to South America, specifically in the mountains of Bolivia and Peru. Moderately difficult. This dry forest species needs good ventilation, and drying between watering. Fronds covered with dense silvery hairs. Temperatures between 70F-80F (21.1-26.6C), low of 60F (15.5C). Requires low light. Produces pups readily.

Spore patches tend to be in the center of the fertile fronds and not the tips which continue to grow.

Read More information on P. andinum

Photo:

P. bifurcatum, cv. Netherlands. Common Name - Common Staghorn.  Bifurcate means to divide or fork which describes the branching shape of the fertile fronds.  Generally narrow fertile fronds, upright with the ends hanging down.  Tips of shields are divided into lobes which are often pointed and extend forward.  Shields are usually brown during spring and summer, green shields form during the late summer and fall.  Fertile fronds remain green, grow most of the year and last 2 or 3 years.

Notice how the fertile frond ends turn down.  Most photos on the Internet of P. bifurcatum appear to be mislabeled because they do not turn down.  Normally the fertile fronds would point up, but this plant is overgrown with shield fronds extended out excessively, and probably needs more light.

Read more information on P. bifurcatum

P. charles alford is a hybrid of P. wandae and P. ridleyi.  Mr Charles Alford reports it appeared while sowing P. wandae spore in the mid 1980's.  It was originally thought to be a sport of P. wandae, but after growing for a few decades he has concluded it is a hybrid.

Picture Rareferns.com

Read more information on P. Charles Alford

P. coronarium, (cor-o-NAR-i-um) which means crown, describing the shape of the mature mass of shields.  Shield fronds are highly lobed and very thick and corky.  Fertile fronds form a long and twisted mass, with spore patches on the underside of kidney-shaped lobes. 

There are reports of fertile fronds being extremely wide and other reports with extremely narrow fertile fronds as shown here.

Read more information on P. coronarium

 

 

 

Photo: Platycerium Ferns

P. dawboy. A hybrid between P. madagascariense and P. alcicorne where the shield frond is defiantly of P. madagascariense origin and the fertile fronds are more P alcicorne in nature, wide and dark green.

 

Read more about P. Dawboy

P. elephantotis. Common Name - Angola Staghorn.   Moderately difficult. Thrives in warm temperatures of 80F-90F (26.6C-32.2C), low of 60F (15.5C). Produces large un-branched, dark green foliar fronds. The shield fronds are massive and die in the spring and need the tops trimmed so new shield can grow erectly.  Large fern. Native to dry forests of tropical Africa.

Read more information on P. elephantotis

Photo: Google

P. elemaria a new hybrid of P. elephantotis and P. stemaria.  Like the P. elephantotis, the P. elemaria does not shed leaves in the winter.  The fertile fronds are very wide wedges with wavy lobes, and they are wider than the shield fronds are tall.  They are waxy like both parents, but with prominent veins running vertical like the P. elephantotis.

The shield fronds are smaller than the fertile fronds and wavy at the top like P. stemaria.

Read more information on P. elemaria

P. ellisii.  (el-LEE-see-eye) Closely related to the African form of P. alcicorne. Both have the same yellow-green color, waxy coating, and they both grow round shield fronds in the sprng and early summer, and fertile fronds during the late summer and fall.  The P. ellisii is unique in the fertile fronds are consistently wide and and divided into only two points near the tips.

Originally from the mangroves forests of Madagascar, suggests they need a warm, humid environment, with filtered light.

When the new shield fronds do not cover the older ones, it needs to be trimmed because the roots are shallow and the rhizome grows upward quickly.  This is an annual requirement.  Without trimming, new pups will not grow.

Photo: DavesGarden.com

Read more information on P. ellisii

P. grande. Difficult to grow. Likes high humidity but is easily over-watered. Young plants produce only basal fronds. Foliar fronds recline. Light green in color. Does not pup. Tender below 60F (15.5C). A large fern, prized by collectors. Native to Philippines.  Notice how much sun this platy is receiving.

Grande typically has 2 spore patches but no frills around the bud.  When comparing photos of the grande and the P. superbum, the P. grande appear to have much thinner dangling fronds below the lobes with spore patches.

Photo: www.flickr.com

Read more information on P. grande

image 1

P. hillii cv Jimmie.  Closely related to P. Bifurcatum,  it is easy to grow with semi-erect dark green, foliar fronds.  The fertile fronds are long, erect, wedge-shaped with forked tips.  A true P. hillii has broad forked tips.  Shield fronds turn brown naturally and have rounded to shallow lobes.  Pups well.  Semi-hardy to 40F.  Many species are available.  This particular plant (pictured) is believed to be from the Steve Talnadge collection and has seen temp down to 33F without any visible damage.

Steve Talnadge of Chula Vista, CA operated Talnadge Fern Nursery for may years and his collection was sold off upon his retirement in the late 1970s.

Photo: Herb Halling

Read more information on P. hillii cv Jimmie

Plant Traits
Grows shield fronds in fall and winter months.

P. holttumii. (holttum-e-eye) Closely related to P. grande, P superbum, p. wallinchii and P. wandae.  It differs from first two by having fertile fronds with two lobes, one smaller and elevated, the other larger and hanging down.  Both lobes have spore patches.  It differs from P. wandae by not having the little points (frills) on the edges of the shield fronds around the bud.

Read more information on P. holttumii

 

 

Photo: TheMulch.com

 

P. hillii cv Hula Hands
A unique platy from Polynesia that has fertile fronds with small fingers on the end.  Easily identified and easy to grow.  One hobbyist feels his hula hands died because he did not have enough humidity in his hot greenhouse.

Read more about P. hillii cv Hula Hands

 

P. la reunion is no longer found in the trade.  It is believed that mariners collected them years ago, probably from Reunion Island, and spread them around calling them La Reunion.  When in reality, they were probably P. bifurcatum or another common platycerium.

Image, Roy Vail.

P. madagascariense (madagascar-e-en-se) A rare species with shields like no other platycerium.  Their veins form tall ridges which surround little valleys, waffle like.  New shields are thin and light green, but turn rich dark green when they mature.  The shields cover the top of the moss and do not collect debris behind them.  In nature, ants live in the shield fronds which may provide the fertilizer.

Fertile fronds are wedged shaped with 1 to 3 shallow forks.  Sore patches grow on the tips of the fertile fronds.

As the plant matures, the base tends to form a spherical shape

Considered a challenging plant to grow, it has been successfully grown in temps 32F to 110F but the extremes should be avoided and best grown in a greenhouse environment with lots of humidity.

Read more information on P. madagascariense

P. majus or P. alcicorne Majus is clearly of Australian origin and not within the P. alcicorne species.  The name P. alcicorne Majus is very misleading and we shall elect to call it P. majus.  It is a fairly large growing staghorn with a growth habit similar to P. veitchii with strongly erect fertile fronds.  The shields are lobed, but do not exhibit the long divisions of true P. veitchii.  Charles Alford believes it is probably a hybrid within the bifurcatum compex, possibly P. vietchii x P. hillii or P, biforcatum

Read More information on P. majus

Photo: Rairferns.com

P. Mt. Lewis is from Mt Lewis in remote northern Queensland, Australia and is probably responsible for the early reports of P. willinckii in Australia.  There appear to be two forms of P. Mt Lewis, one with narrow strap like fronds, and one with wide fronds.  They both hang down and produce spore on the underside.  The shield fronds tend to be roundish on the bottom, and majestically tall lobes on the top.

 

Read more information on P. Mt Lewis

P. panama is classified as P. hillii.  The shield fronds hug the tree or mount closely making it difficult to water.  The fertile fronds are wide like a typical P. hillii.  What makes the P. panama unique, it is a small platycerium and slow growing.  It is hard to see the true characteristics of the P. panama until it is well established.

P. panama is a small, slow growing platy with round shield fronds.  Once established pups are volunteered slowly.

This platy should take temps from 40 to 90 degrees F. in filtered sunlight.  It likes humidity

Read More information on P. panama

Photo: Herb Halling

P. quadridichotomum. (quad-ra-di-cot-to-mum) This is a small, unique, and little understood platycerium from western Madagascar, which is considered hard to grow and rarely found in collections. The fertile fronds hang down.  Their edges are usually wavy.  Their upper surface may be hairy in bright sunlight.  The lower surface is densely covered with tan hairs.  The spore patch is dark brown, and located in the area of the second frond division, similar to P. andinum

The name comes from the fertile fronds which often branch the number of times it takes to form four tips.  In nature this fern usually grows on limestone rocks, not trees.  Little is known about these

Read More information on P. quadridichotomum

P. ridleyi is one of my favorites.  It needs to stay dryer and breezy than most staghorns.  I suspect the breezy helps keep the fern dry.  The spore grow on the underside of spoon-shaped lobes that protrude from the normal fertile fronds.  The shield fronds grow so they keep most water water out of the root ball.  It is common in the wild for ants to live deep inside and it is a symbiotic relationship that the ridleyi tends to attract, but probably not necessary for the growth of the fern.  The ridleyi does not collect nutrients off water like other platyceriums.

Read More information on P. ridleyi

Photo: Google / Platycerium Sakura.ne.jp

P. silver velvet A new hybrid cultivar grown from a cross between P. elephantotis & P. willinckii.  Grows massive shield fronds like the P. elephantotis and wide fertile fronds, only deeply branched like the P. willinckii.  One could argue that there are traits of P. hillii with the wide fronds and shape of the shield fronds.

Little is known about this cultivar, but we can assume it likes a warm climate between 60F and 90F and it grows pups.  May like moist moss and not prone to rot.

 

Read more information on P. silver velvet

 

 

 

 

Photo: siamexotica.com

P. stemaria. Common name: Triangle Staghorn.  Large-growing wide shields, wavy at the top and short lived and are seasonal.  The fertile fronds are often shiny on the upper surface, and quite hairy on the underneath.  The fertile fronds show a main division into two lobes and each of these lobes divides once again.  There are two spore patches on each frond, one on each main lobe, in the area of its division.  When mature the spore patches are dark brown.  More difficult to grow, requiring temperatures of 80F (26.6C) and not below 50F (10C). Needs high humidity and frequent watering. Semi-erect, large foliar fronds with a silvery cast when young. Produces pups readily in moist areas.

Broad fertile and dark green suggest a filtered light is best and shelter from wind.  This condition also suggests less spore production.  It is expected, if grown in brighter light, the fertile fronds would tend to be narrower and shorter with more spore.

Read More information on P. stemaria

Photo; Facebook - Planet Platycerium, by Peterne Katai

 

P. superbum. (su-PERB-um)  Very similar in appearance to P. grande when young. Shield fronds are deeply lobed and may reach 4 ft tall.  Upper edges extend forward to form a catch basin.  Once the shield fronds reach 2 ft. fertile fronds can be expected. Each fertile frond has one spore patch, oval to nearly triangular and brown when mature.  Large reclining foliar fronds light green in color. Does not pup. Hardy to 30F (1.1C) for short periods, although prolonged cold temperatures not tolerated. Likes brighter light than the average staghorn. Prized by collectors. Native to Australia.  Similar to the P. grande which is native to the Philippines and has two spore patches and no frills around the bud.  The P. superbum has only one spore patch and frills around the bud.

Photo; Platycerium Ferns

Read more information on P. superbum

P. veitchii. (veitch-e-eye)  A common and easy-to-grow species with erect, silvery foliar fronds.  Closely related to P. bifurcatum, but unique in several ways.  Semi-hardy to temperatures of around 30F (1.1C) and tolerant of light frost. High temperatures of 120F.  This is a semi-desert species native to Australia and requires a lot of light to show all its traits fully.  The main identification feature is the tips of the shield fronds.

P. veitchi features show a great amount of white hair on the fertile fronds.  Its fertile fronds are very upright in high light.  The tops of its shield fronds grow into tall thin fingers.  As the shield frond decays, it leaves a distinctive skeleton of the frond.

In high light, fertile fronds are shorter, lighter and more vertical with more spore patches.

Roy Vail says P. Veitchi cv Lemonei will grow in 120 degree heat if the plant is well established and sheltered from strong dry winds.  Normally P. veichii, cv Lemonei grow on rocks and the spore germinate in lichens growing on the rocks

Read more information on P. veitchii

P. wallichii (wal-lee-key-eye)  In nature tends to be 4.5 ft tall, but smaller in cultivation.  The shield fronds form baskets and turn brown.  The fertile fronds grow multiple rounded lobes and only the first two lobes have spore patches. The fertile fronds had distinctively proment veins on the upper side. Eventually the fertile frond blends into the shield fronds.

Plants tends to go into a dormancy stage and frequently die and never come out of dormancy.  Some growers have successfully not watered it during dormancy, and others have kept it watered and prevented dormancy.  More experience is needed.  The spore are green and do not live long.  This gives a short window for propagating spore, but they do volunteer fast in moist conditions.

Read more information on P. wallichii

Photo: siamensis.org

P. wandae. (wan-dee), The Queen Staghorn.  Needs high humidity; easily over-watered. Temperatures between 80-90F (26.6C-32.2C), low of 60F (15.5C). Possibly the largest Platycerium. Native to New Guinea.  This culture needs plenty of space to grow in cultivation.

Shield fronds are very upright and lobed along the top forming a basket.  The fertile fronds grow two lobes with frills around the bud, the smaller lobe is elevated.  Each lobe can have spore patches.

Photo; Platycerium Ferns

Wandae typically has two spore patches, one smaller and elevated, and frills around the bud.

 

Read more information on P. wandae


 

P. willinckii (wil-lin-key-eye) or Java Staghorn. closely related to P. bifurcatum but the shield fronds are different by being very tall and deeply lobed.  They quickly turn brown and as they decay a mesh of veins is left standing.  The the first thing I look for on willinckii is fertile fronds wich grow edgewise at the bud and then hang down.  Usually there is a stark contrast between the brown shield fronds and the green fertile fronds.

This platycerium is easy go grow but does not tolerate cold as well as P. bifurcatium.  The bud is small and slow to grow fertile fronds suggesting it may be dead.  But with time, the fertile fronds develop.  Pups do form but not as freely as P. birfurcatum.  Grows well in medium light, moist moss, and is not prone to rot.

Photo: Google, www.greenculturesg.com

Read more information on P. willinckii

P. x mentelosii (men-tel-osee-eye) is a hybrid between P. superbum and P. stemaria. Also referred to as P. superbum x stemaria.  This hybrid also called P. Fantastic Gardens by Barbra Joe Hoshizaki in her book Fern Growers Manual.  Not a lot is known about this cross and today's growers may have called it something different. 

The P. x mentelosii is considered a sterile hybrid, but Barbra Joe reports that some viable spores can be obtained from two lobes with spore patches.  Like its P. superbum parent, the P. x mentelosii does not offer volunteers like the P. .

http://home.earthlink.net/~decho/bloomei2.jpg

P. hillii, 'bloomei'.  Not much known but they do grow in So Cal area.  May be the same as P. bloomei fingers, but the fingers have not grown on this plant.

Wide waxy fronds suggest is retains moisture and should probably be grown in filtered light.

Photo; Don Eckel

P. Blue Boy, grown by Talnadge.  He wanted to name the cultivar after the individual that provided the fern, but he had already name it Blue Boy.  Similar to the P. bifurcatum above, but the tips do not turn down.

Photo: Toms Staghorn Ferns

http://home.earthlink.net/~decho/hands.jpg

P; Hula Hands.  Brought to Talnadge who wanted to name it after the person who brought it, but that person had already named it Hula Hands.  There seem to be 2 or 3 forms of it.

The dark green fronds suggest growing in filtered light.

P. superbum. (su-PERB-um) Difficult to grow. Very similar in appearance to P. grande when young. Easily over-watered. Large reclining foliar fronds light green in color. Does not pup. Hardy to 30F (1.1C) for short periods, although prolonged cold temperatures not tolerated. Prized by collectors. Native to Australia.

Photo; Platycerium Ferns

Superbum typically has only one spore patch

P. bifurcatum cv vildrii

Dark green and broad fertile fronds suggest growing in filtered light is best.

Photo; Platycerium Ferns

P. Mt kitshakood A cross of P. ridleyi and P. coranarium.  Displays traits of both parents. with large highly forked fertile fronds similar to P. ridleyi but grow in a twisted mass like P. coranarium, and the length of P. ridleyi.  Both parents grow kidney shaped lobes that produce spore.  The shield fronds are lobed like P. coranarium and thick and corky, similar to P. Ridleyi.

The thick corky shield fronds suggest climate above 40F.   Some reports suggest filtered light, but there are reports of healthy growth in bright light.

Photo; Platycerium Ferns

Many of the photos on this web site have been taken from other platycerium web sites.  Namely Tom's Staghorn Ferns,  Don Eckel, Platycerium Ferns and others.

 

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