Class IV -- Polypodiaceae: A Fern Family

January 10 & 11, 1998

Dr. Alan Smith
Research Botanist
University Herbarium
University of California, Berkeley

"Polypodium vulgare, how remarkably you vary." Not only is this aphorism true for our common California polpodies, but it applies to the entire family Polypodiaceae, which is nearly cosmopolitan and among the most evolutionarily derived groups of ferns. This family, comprising about 650 tropical and temperate species in 25 genera, will be the subject of an intensive 2-day workshop. Historically, Polypodiaceae was defined to include most of the so-called "higher" ferns, perhaps 7000 species. Nowadays, it is usually circumscribed more narrowly, to include Polypodium and closely allied genera, groups having mostly undivided to deeply lobed blades, round sori, and lacking indusia. Many are among our most easily grown and attractive cultivated ferns, for example Platycerium (staghorn), Aglaomorpha, Drynaria (Oak leaf fern), Pyrrosia (Felt fern), Phlebodium (Rabbit's-foot), and Polypodium itself. Many other genera, like Campyloneurum, Microgramma, and Phymatosorus, are also readily adaptable to cultivation. Many species are epiphytes (growing on other plants) in nature, but are quite capable of growing in soil in cultivation. Some show bizarre mutualistic adaptations (enlarged tubers or rhizomes) for living with ants, or bear specialized leaves to trap humus and nutrients while perched on limbs of trees. Identification of genera and species, with much of the time spent using keys (to be provided), will be the primary focus of this workshop. We will also talk about how best they can be grown in your backyards, greenhouses, and terraria. Abundant living material from the UC Botanical Garden will be at our fingertips.


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