The Q&A Archives: Multiplication of Ferns

Question: Do ferns actually multiply? We have a fern "area" in our yard that is in shade and always damp, so they are doing well, but I can't tell if they're actually multiplying, or is it too early to tell, or what? We have had them for about a year.Thanks. P. Peters Rochester, NY

Answer: Ferns multiply from spores. You may have noticed that there are small spots on the backs of the fronds. These are spore capsules. They will fall to the ground and sprout into a tiny scale like growth (prothallum) which will develop male and female parts that will eventually create a new mound of fronds. Under the proper conditions, all ferns will multiply. Ferns will also spread from the base, sending out rhizomes that give rise to new fronds. Some spread faster than others - hay scented (Dennstadedtia punctilobula) and New York ferns (Thelypteris novelboracensis) are will spread vigorously. You can consult the source from which you purchased your ferns for information about the species you are growing, or contact us with the name of the species, and we might be able let you know what you should expect.

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