Nephrolepis exaltata 

(ne-fro-lep' iss ex-all-tah' tah)

Common name: Boston Fern

Family: Polypodiaceae, Polypody

Height x width: 3' x 2', arching to 7' on large plants

Growth rate: moderate to fast

Fronds: linear, arching, 3-7' long, shallowly toothed with sickle-shaped pinnae

Sori: terminal on first distal vein on underside, circular to moon-shaped

Light: bright

Temperature: warm

Watering: moderate

Fertility: moderate

Humidity: humid

Soil: very well-drained to epiphytic

Pests and Problems: leaf spots, root rots (from poor drainage, overwatering), scales (most common), spider mites, mealybugs; brown leaf tips if too dry or too wet; yellowing and falling leaves if too wet, too cool, too low light and especially dry atmosphere--often being messy indoors; also spindly growth from low light

Growth habit, uses: foliage, groundcover in indoor beds

Other interest: name from Greek nephros for kidney and lepis for scale, refering to the shape of the scales (indusia) covering the spores; native to the tropics worldwide; popular in Victorian times with many old cultivars such as indicated by names 'Rooseveltii' and 'Teddy Junior', Childs was a famous mail-order firm in Victorian times

Other culture: species spreads rapidly by rhizomes and runners and may be too aggressive and so not preferred over slower cultivars

Propagation: division of runners and plantlets (often numerous, easy), spores

Related Species:

Of the 30 or so species, in addition to the primary one listed above, the following may also be seen.

• cordifolia (core-di-fol' ee-ah)--Sword Fern, up to 70 pairs of parallel, linear pinna; non-native and invasive in some areas; distinguished from the native Boston fern by having tubers on the roots

'Duffii'--short, rounded pinnae, fronds often forked at the tips

'Plumosa'--slow growing, lobed pinnae

• falcata (fal-caa' tah)--lance-shaped, glossy dark green fronds to 8' long, closely spaced sickle-shaped pinnae

Cultivars: (of exaltata)

Mainly found as the species, or as 'Dallas'.

'Aurea':'Golden Boston'

'Bostoniensis'--broader, lance-shaped fronds; the original Boston Fern from the 19th century, arising from the species as a mutation with drooping fronds; most current cultivars are further selections of this cultivar

'Childsii'--broad, 3- to 4-pinnate, closely overlapping fronds, deltoid

'Dallas'--one of most recent and popular cultivars, very dwarf 8-12" tall and wide, good in pots or hanging containers

'Fluffy Ruffles'--dense fronds to 3-pinnate, deltoid, one of more popular cultivars

'Golden Boston'--golden yellow fronds

'Hillii'--2-pinnate fronds, pinnae variably lobed, crested or wavy (undulate)

'Rooseveltii'--fronds pinnate, pinnae unequal with "ear" at the base (auriculate), wavy, old

'Smithii'--fronds finely 3-pinnate, lacy

'Teddy Junior'--dense fronds, wavy pinnae

'Verona'--dense, 3- or 4-pinnate fronds very hanging (pendent)

'Whitmannii'--fronds 3-pinnate

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS121, Indoor Plants.

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