Hiding in the shadows where would we be without them? For they are mostly responsible for our fossil fuels. Dominating the plant kingdom 350 million years ago, their decay on the forest floor piled up many miles thick and super compressed over millions of years storing their captured carbon which now wreaks havoc on our climate.
Ferns are widespread throughout many habitats, from tropical rainforest to arctic alpine situations, desert scrub lands to coastal niches, they like a shady moist spot, and are prized for their architectural foliage adding an exotic jungle feel to any garden.￼
They also vary in size, from tiny 1-2mm plants to giant tree ferns over 30 metres in height, there are over 9000 species, most are found in the tropics. Some are edible
And many have medicinal properties, their generic names reflecting the area of the body they acted on i.e. Asplenium the spleen, Maidenhair for baldness. Therapeutic properties range from antiworming-vermifuge, antiarthritic, cough remedies and topically such as an ointment made from the fronds of Harts tongue fern for burns and scalds, always consult a medical herbalist to try any of these.
Ash derived from burning bracken is a very rich source of potash, although avoid inhaling the spores by using a fire bin to first dry the green fronds which are the richest source and avoiding introducing it into your garden. This abundant resource could be commercially harvested and processed, thereby controlling this rampant weed.
I think no garden should be without one of our 45 native species, creating a great backdrop for herbaceous plants such as Solomon’s seal or bleeding hearts.