Platycerium bifurcatum
Common Name: elkhorn fern
Type: Fern
Family: Polypodiaceae
Native Range: Southeast Asia, Polynesia, subtropical Australia
Zone: 9 to 12
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Tolerate: Rabbit

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zone 9-12. In St. Louis, grow indoors in a warm, humid environment in bright indirect light including up to several hours of filtered sun. Avoid full sun. For upright display, tie rootball to a corkboard or slab of bark with insertion of peat moss around the crown. Water crowns regularly, allowing roots to dry slightly between waterings. Roots must never be allowed to dry out. Occasionally immerse entire root ball (not the fertile fronds) in water for several minutes and then drain. In pots, use epiphytic or sphagnum fern mix. Pot grown plants may be watered from below. Plants may be taken to a shaded porch in summer. Home propagation by spores can be difficult.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Platycerium bifurcatum, commonly called staghorn fern, is an evergreen epiphytic fern that produces distinctive fertile fronds resembling the forked antlers of a stag. It is native to Southeast Asia, Polynesia and Australia, where it is typically found growing on tree trunks and branches. Two types of fronds are produced: (1) infertile fronds are the small somewhat inconspicuous leaves that cover the root crown and (2) fertile (spore-bearing) fronds are the leathery, gray-green fronds that grow outward from the crown to as much as 3’ long and give the plant its common name. Fertile fronds are covered with a grayish white felt. Synonymous with and sometimes sold as P. alcicorne.

Genus name comes from the Greek words platys meaning broad and keras meaning a horn in reference to the branched fertile fronds.

Specific epithet means twice forked.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for scale.

Garden Uses

House plant. Best grown on large slab of bark or wood. Also can be effective in a hanging basket.