The Superb Platycerium superbum

I have two Platycerium superbum, and yes, they are aptly named: superb. Epiphytic ferns from northern Australia/southern Indonesia, they grow on trees in the rain forest canopy. As they grow, leaf litter falling from above collects in the top area of the fern, where it decays, providing them with nutrients! Darned clever, that evolution.

On the walls of our patio, they grow on pieces of wood and are dramatic living sculptures. I got one as a three inch (7 cm) diameter disk around 2002, the other my mother-in-law gave us. They are far from full grown now, but grander and more dramatic every year. I try to remember to water them regularly, but they survive months without any water. (Don't ask how I know.) The grower I bought mine from said most people kill them by over watering. He recommended one watering a week in summer, once a month in winter, and every day during Santa Ana conditions (when relative humidity is a brutal 7-8%).

Platycerium superbum is hardy to the high twenties and doesn't need a huge amount of light, so I would think they'd be easy to grow in many climates if brought inside during cold spells. Some mild fertilizer in spring is probably a good idea. I did fertilize them once a couple of years ago, but they've done well without it.

They have two types of fronds: the platter-like part that attaches to a support, and a Rapunzel-like stream growing out from the center of the platter that are the spore-producing fronds. The platters start out round but soon develop finger-like structures at the top. They grow to a certain size before they start going Rapunzel. Not there yet. No matter.

At a local botanical garden, there are a couple of huge ones, over 6' (1.8 meters) tall:

Truly magnificent! I try to remember those, in the hope it will motivate me to water and fertilize mine more often.

Looking down at the top of the plant: