It’s a bit of a mouthful this name, and for some reason I find ferns’ names amongst the most difficult to remember, and certainly the ferns themselves extraordinarily difficult to identify. However, names are important and having discovered this beauty, (I looked long and hard to find a fern that would be happy in a rather testing location), I now have no difficulty in remembering it!
It is my special plant this week for two reasons. First off, there is nothing like the unfurling of those amazing fronds to remind us that spring is here (as if we needed reminding), and then there is this fern’s outstanding ability to thrive in dry shade which, translated, means just four feet from the trunk of a prunus padus which is asking quite a lot!
Polystichum setiferum is known as the soft shield fern, and ‘Divisilobum Wollaston’ is an evergreen, very hardy and very tough form which attains a height of about 75 cms. I read that it was found in a hedge in Devon in 1852 by a Mr G. Wollaston, fern enthusiast, collector and at one time a vice-president of the ‘West of England Pteridological Society’!
It is interesting to note that in Victorian times when the craze for fern hunting was at its peak, and because many unscrupulous fern vendors jumped on the bandwagon, the danger of over-collecting any plant in the wild was recognised, and slowly Bye-Laws were introduced to protect public places from being plundered in this way.
NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.
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