I am beginning to feel like this is quite a responsibility, mum

I am beginning to feel like this is quite a responsibility, mum.

True Maidenhair fern, Adiantum aethiopcium.

Rhizome thin, wiry, long creeping and producing tufts of fronds at intervals. Fronds light green 15 – 20 cm long. Fertile fronds annually produced during spring and summer, dying off in autumn. Pinnules rounded, sori few, large … Common in drier open places in the northern North Island from near North Cape to Hamilton but most frequent north of Auckland. South of Hamilton it is very rare and local and is known only from a few localities. It is recored from Nelson in the South Island.”1

Exactly how it started, I don’t know. Sometime later a friend said to me,

there was something about those ferns of your mother’s that seduced you into taking them into your home.

Perhaps it was a childhood memory of the solitary, almost revered maidenhair fern sitting in the bathtub, where it lived while we were away on holiday? Years later, that same fern had been planted under the deck and had proliferated to such an extent that it took up about two square metres of mums garden.

Finding a large container, I packed it with the easiest to lift clump of wiry tangles, I noticed it is shallow growing, sprawling along in a mass of roots and tangles of living and dying shoots. I drove it home, where I separated and potted it up into as many spare plastic pots I could repurpose, coercing my green-fingered daughter into assisting with the task. There was enough of the original plant in that container to pot up around ten plants, some of which live with me, others have been dispersed, gifted to friends and family; with care instructions,

they are not as sensitive as you think, just keep them moist, give them a sunny aspect, but out of direct sunlight.

The pieces of my mothers fern connect me to my closest friends and family, we share our lives together, we share our plants, and care for them daily. There is an intimacy in sharing living plants; one needs to be certain that the ferns are in good hands.

I am beginning to feel like this is quite a responsibility, mum.

My daughter confided in me as we contemplated potting up her newest plant specimens.

The structure and habit of a rhizome means that at any point it is the same plant, the same parent and offspring, sprawling outwards, with no apparent end or beginning. Propagation from such a plant produces clones of the same parent or mother plant, there is no end or beginning, the organism resists the notion of containment.



[1.] R. J. Chinnock and Eric Heath, Ferns and Fern Allies of New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A.W. Reed, 1974).



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