Bryant is once again the author of today’s entry. He writes:
A big thank you to Ton Rulkens (tonrulkens@Flickr) for this image of Platycerium angolense (sometimes referred to by its synonym Platycerium elephantotis, and in the Polypodiaceae). Ton’s photograph of elephant ear fern was taken in the Muidumbe District in northern Mozambique. All species of Platycerium (commonly referred to as staghorn ferns) are epiphytic (but, not parasitic). This particular species is native to eastern and central Africa (except in the Congo basin), in forested areas with warm & wet weather during the growing season and drier & cooler (not cold) weather during its dormant season.
Like other members of the Platycerium, individuals of Platycerium angolense have two different types of fronds, shield or basal fronds and fertile fronds (pictured above). The basal fronds form a basin-like structure tight against the host tree, growing upwards with an opening at the top. This opening is thought to aid in fertilizing the plant, in that it catches water and falling detritus as well as the plant’s own decaying leaf matter. The basal fronds also protect the rhizome (which attaches to the host tree) from desiccation by sun exposure or drought. The fertile fronds of Platycerium angolense are not lobed (unlike most Platycerium spp.) and typically droop downwards toward the forest floor. These fertile fronds usually develop large fertile spore patches on the undersides of each frond (which can be seen on the underside of the upper fronds in today’s image).