Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ferns on Hayes Churchyard Wall

Hart's-tongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium.  On Hayes churchyard wall, 2 December 2013.
Hart's-tongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium.  On Hayes churchyard wall, 2 December 2013.
The churchyard in Hayes is surrounded by a low wall that borders on the main road through the old village, which is now really just another outer suburb of London.  The wall has a nice range of plants growing on it, and it is good that no-one tries to tidy these away.  They include three types of fern that are perhaps not the sort of thing people usually think of when ferns are mentioned.

The top one is well-known.  The Hart's Tongue grows in many damp, shady places, whether natural or man-made.  The "frond" of this fern is a imple flat blade, with no divisions.

Rustyback, Asplenium ceterach.   On Hayes churchyard wall, 2 December 2013.
Rustyback, Asplenium ceterach.   On Hayes churchyard wall, 2 December 2013.
The Rustyback is quite scarce in this area, so it's nice to see it thriving here.  You can see under the edges of the pinnae how it gets its name.  It is quite small, but in its form it is more like a traditional fern, straightforwardly pinnate.

Maidenhair Spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes.  On Hayes churchyard wall, 2 December 2013.
Maidenhair Spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes.  On Hayes churchyard wall, 2 December 2013.
Another small pinnate fern, this one with wiry black rachises and rounded pinnae. 

To survive high on a wall, a fern must be able to withstand drought and recover when moisture returns.  The extent to which these ferns can do this affects where they grow.  The Hart's Tongue can  not withstand drought, and does best at the base of the wall on the shady side.  Even there, the specimens are quite small.  It does not grow on the drier side at all. 

The Rustyback and the Maidenhair Spleenwort grow up and down the wall on both sides, but they are larger and healthier on the shady side.  In a dry summer, Rustybacks curl up and both species look dead, though they are not.  The lively specimens shown here are on the shady side, and we have had a long wet spell, so they are at their best.

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