Finding a Place to Grow


I have never been fond of palm trees in my garden landscape. To me, as close as we live to the coast, they seem much more at home near the ocean, fitting right in with the sand and sun and waves. However, I adore ferns, and grow several different varieties in our wooded back yard. But as you see here, there is definitely a friendly relationship between these ferns and the large palm where they so happily grow. I noticed this cluster of ferns when I took my 6 month old granddaughter out in her stroller for a walk one morning. This palm is the centerpiece of a small pocket park in their neighborhood. I don’t think I had ever truly paid attention (sorry, Mary Oliver!) and been astonished at the sight, and certainly had never talked about how these graceful little ferns happen to find enough to grow on in what seems to be just a notch left by palm fronds as they age and break off.

In this case, the palm’s growth habit (aging?) creates a little pocket where debris and leaves collect. The point where the palm fronds once attached to the trunk – called boots – collect leaf litter that composts to create a growing medium that ferns love. This is a natural occurrence  in areas like ours  where wet, humid conditions favor the ferns.

The ferns are epiphytes. This means they are growing on another plant that serves as a host, but they don’t get their nutrition directly from the host plant or cause any it any harm. Spanish moss is another common epiphyte.

Another little fern called the Resurrection Fern can be found growing on a palm trunk, although the most common choice for this fern around here are the large old live oaks where the fern grows along the branches looking like brown moss until it begins to rain. Then it transforms into emerald lace!  (See my previous post

I am glad I paid attention to these feathery green surprises. One day tiny spores were  floating around and a puff of wind carried them to just the right spot to root and grow. I am reminded of the lovely phrase used by Hildegarde of Bingen:  A Feather on the Breath of God. Maybe we can learn to let go enough to be shown just the right place to grow. And it just might be an unlikely place, an extraordinary place, one we would never have known to dream of.

“Pay attention

Be Astonished

Tell about it.”  ~ Mary Oliver



4 thoughts on “Finding a Place to Grow

    • I love ferns too, Wendy, and actually have one old Boston fern That I bought at a garage sale in 1981! It was old and needed repotting then. When we moved away to California and then to Indonesia in 1986 I left the big fern with my sister. When we returned to Texas in 1992, she gave it back to me. it is too big for me to move inside, so it and several “babies” live in my shady back yard, making it through our mild winters with an occasional covering when temps drop below freezing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How wonderful to have such a beautiful old fern. Our previous property had them in the woods, and I was sad to leave them. Then when we moved in here I discovered ferns outnumbered the other shrubs. That’s fine by me. Their babies come up in the sidewalk cracks.

        I miss having one in the house–but my daughter’s sweet cat would more than likely eat it (I’ve had to move my husband’s large grass plant that he’s had for ages). ❀


      • I know exactly what you mean, Wendy. We have 2 cats! I have 2 fern stands inside, but they don’t get to hold ferns.


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