The Q&A Archives: Sticky Fern

Question: I have had a fern for three years and it has developed some type of a spore or scale that is very messy, and sticky. I don't know what to treat it with. I've only known the fern to be called a Rabbits Foot Fern, from my grandmother. Any help you could give me would be appreciated, even if you could steer me towards a good book on the subject.

Answer: Scale insects can cause problems on all kinds of plants. They're sucking insects and the excess plant fluids they consume ends up as a sticky residue on the upper sides of leaves. Scales are difficult to eradicate because they're protected from predators and chemical sprays by their hard outer shells. The best defense is to pry them off, one at a time. (Ferns would be harmed by the usual horticultural oil application which suffocates them.) If your fern is really under attack, you may want to cut back the affected fronds and allow new fronds to grow this spring.

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