Forest Flora – Basket Fern (Drynaria rigidula)
#ForestFlora – The Basket Fern (Drynaria rigidula) is an Epiphyte – a collection of fascinating plants that survive without roots in the ground and have the ability to trap nutrients and store their own water. Epiphytes are often supported by host plants. They come in various forms including Bird’s Nest Ferns, Basket Ferns, and Northern Elkhorn Ferns.
Pictured here is a Basket Fern (Drynaria rigidula). These are particularly important in the rainforest, as they contain whole ecosystems of insects and earthworms that aerate the compost. Over 500 species of Basket Ferns have been recorded.
The Basket Fern grows in a large clump and has two quite different frond types. The lower ‘nest’ fronds are short, papery, brown, and similarly shaped to an oak leaf. The green, more erect fronds may be up to 2m in length and are segmented into many blunt-toothed leaflets on short stalks.
These beautiful ferns occur widely in eastern Queensland as well as islands of the Pacific and parts of south-east Asia. In NSW it is only found north of the Clarence River, in a few locations at Maclean, Bogangar, Byron Bay, Mullumbimby, in the Tweed Valley, and at Woodenbong. They are usually found in rainforests but have also been recorded in moist eucalypt and Swamp Oak forests.
Threats to the Basket Fern include loss of habitat through clearing for agriculture and development, browsing and trampling by domestic stock, invasion of weeds and habitat degradation, which limits opportunities for the establishment of young plants and removal of forest understorey, resulting in loss of habitat.
- The heaviest basket fern on record weighed close to 2000kg!
- Strangler Figs (Ficus spp.: Moraceae) have been known to start their lives inside a Basket Fern
Information sourced from NSW Office of Environment & Heritage
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