Platycerium angolense

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).

Platycerium angolense

9 responses to “Platycerium angolense”

  1. Bart Wursten

    Another excellent photograph by Ton and an interesting post. It may be of interest to know that Platycerium elephantotis, being the older name, is now generally considered the accepted name and P. angolense is the synonym. Also, contrary to what is often mentioned, this species is also found in parts of the Congo basin. It is eg. common in and around Yangambi. See

  2. Connie Hoge

    The world is so full of a number of things,
    I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
    R. L. Stevenson

  3. Bonnie

    It is really nice to be able to see something and read about it as well. I’ll not see any in person.

  4. Deb Lievens

    I love watching the pictures scan open. I did not have a clue what this plant was until I saw the copy. I never would have come up with Polypodiaceae. I have been enjoying PBotD for years and it continues to capture my attention. Excellent post. Thanks Daniel.

  5. Daniel Mosquin

    Bart, I’ll take responsibility for using Platycerium angolense — Bryant had written the entry as Platycerium elephantotis, but I switched it based on The Plant List. I’ll need to check my taxonomic references when I’m back at work to see if I can get more clarity on the name (for now, though, Platycerium angolense was the first-published name — but whether it was validly published is what I need to check).

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    when i first moved to florida many years ago
    the staghorns were[ i thought] in hanging baskets
    up in trees wrong and they so large. trees just
    grow all kinds of stuff on thier bark
    since i am not like you daniel i get to call it stuff

  7. Bryant

    Bart: Thanks for mentioning its existence in the Congo Basin, its great having keen eyes out in the field! I wonder if those populations have been formerly recorded/included in this species range somewhere or if they would be new range extensions?

  8. Bart Wursten

    Bryant: I don’t really know why the Congo basin is excluded from the distribution. It is common around Yangambi and that is exactly where the main agricultural and botanical research centre is located. The centre has been there since colonial times and is still functioning reasonably well. The specimens I photographed were less than 300m from the Yangambi herbarium (YBI). Next time I am there I will check to see if there are any specimens in YBI.

  9. Daniel Mosquin

    Looks like The Plant List is using Platycerium angolense based on Tropicos, which is in turn referring to List of Vascular Plants of Gabon with Synonymy as their standard for the name. As I noted earlier, Platycerium angolense was the first published name. W.J. Hooker was involved in the publication of that volume, so I’d assume it was validly published as well (meaning I don’t know the reason why Platycerium elephantotis is preferably used by some).

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