Platycerium veitchii

silver elkhorn


Platycerium veitchii

C.Chr. 1906

pronounced: plat-ee-KER-ee-um VY-chee-eye

(Polypodiaceae — the fern family)


common name: silver elkhorn

native 4Platycerium is from two Greek words, πλατυς (platys), wide or broad, and κερας (keras), a horn; veitchii is probably for James Veitch (1792-1863), of the renowned Veitch Nursery at Exeter, England. The nursery had an enviable reputation of being able to rear all sorts of exotic plants from overseas.

The plant is a native of Queensland and some of its offshore islands, and in its native habitat is usually found growing in places of low rainfall, on bare rocks. It is very closely related to Platycerium bifurcatum, the common elkhorn; but It differs from the common elkhorn in several ways:

       • It is covered with quite a lot of white hair;
       • The tops of the shield fronds grow into tall, thin fingers;
       • The fertile fronds are very upright.

It is possible that these differences are adaptations to the dry conditions under which the silver elkhorn exists. It requires very high light and heat levels for these characteristics to be fully shown. The rock faces can often reach temperatures of 50ºC. The fern can withstand droughts lasting several months. To develop the long fertile fronds, bright light is needed; otherwise they will tend to droop.

The firm forms pups easily. A cluster matures into a shape of a half basket, open at the top, but with the sides and bottoms covered with plants. Usually the rock behind the firm prevents it from forming a full basket. Lichens are common, and it is possible that the spores germinate in the lichens.

The fertile fronds can be nearly white with their covering of stellate hairs. The stomata are sunken into pits.

If growing this fern in the garden, it must receive good light and not too much water. It may well survive poor light and overwatering, but the fertile fronds will become long and wide, may twist at the base, and then hang down.


Photographed on Magnetic Island 2017
Page last updated 16th March 2019