The Art Of Fern Dancing


Australian Tree Fern

Simply put, I’m a fern fan.

I love the way their fiddleheads appear in spring, the graceful uncurling, and the slow, almost teasing reveal of the finely cut fronds. Let’s face it: ferns are the dancers of the garden, ballet and burlesque all at once.

Australian Tree Fern

Not a bad for an old plant.

According to the American Fern Society, ferns have been around for a long time — a very, very long time. In fact, they’re even the stars of their own age — the Carboniferous Period, when ferns were the predominant vegetation.

Australian Tree Fern

It’s this lengthy history that enable ferns to play tricks with time. Enter a wooded glen with a fern carpet and it’s highly likely that you’ll see Robin Hood, a dinosaur, and a Victorian plant hunter all at the same time and quite comfortable with one another.

Australian Tree Fern

More than anything, it’s this igniting of the imagination that makes ferns a must for me. It’s as if in each of its fronds, in each of its spores, there’s a story that is the story of us.

Australian Tree Fern

I think that’s why I was determined to plant an Australian Tree Fern as an understory specimen in my zone 10 landscape.  One look at it, and I’m whisked away to another place and time. The equator? Sometimes. A rain forest?  Certainly.  The shore of some primordial prehistoric pond? Possibly.

Australian Tree Fern

More importantly, though, it’s that fern dance that’s so mesmerizing. Think of the Australian Tree Fern as a fern on steroids.  A furry fiddlehead rises from the center, slowly stretching out.  Then, each frond is its own fiddlehead, and these also unfurl and open.


And this process continues with the help of regular misting, even watering, heat, and humidity. In time, the Australian Tree Fern will have an 8’ spread and stand 15’ tall, which means I’ll be able to stand beneath a fern, imagining myself as something small in a faraway time and place.

15 thoughts on “The Art Of Fern Dancing

  1. Years and years ago when we first moved into our home we had an Australian tree fern and I just loved it! I don’t recall when we lost it, but it’s been a long time. I love ferns and I’d love to devote more of my garden to them, but I don’t have the best environment for them. I think ferns must absolutely thrive with Florida’s humidity and you’re going to have fun with all the variety. Your photos are absolutely beautiful, Kevin. You’ll have to consider cooking with them! I never have, but it intrigues me. 🙂

  2. Just like home when I see these images, Kevin. They grow wild in the State forest behind us, sheltered by a canopy of gum trees – mine need will need a regular spray of water as we head into summer. Greetings from Down Under. Flavia

  3. Woah, that is some fern to be able to stand under it! Fabulous! I love ferns, and I was very excited to find that so many ferns grew wild on our current property. This hot, dry summer has given them a beating, but it’s hard to get down a plant that’s been around since before the dinosaurs!

    • Hi Indie. It’s really incredible to think of the history of this plant, and that not only that it survived, but that there are so many varieties that have adapted to different landscapes. Fascinating plant, for sure! 🙂

  4. Kia Ora Kevin
    I want to tell you about the New Zealand Tree Fern.
    We call the fiddleheads a KORU and the Silver Fern (Ponga) is our National symbol (underside of fern).
    Many high-end restaurants now serve Pikopiko on their menus (the Koru). Pikopiko can be used as a garnish or as a vegetable. (312 different varieties of fern shoots in NZ) but the ground fern Asplenium bulbiferum is known as the Pikopiko fern. Happy New Year 🙂

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