A giant prehistoric fern

Bob Denelzen bobbyd at peg.apc.org
Fri Sep 27 22:18:04 EST 1996


fictitious at alias.incognito.myob (ima pseudonym) wrote:
>In article <9609251844.AA26266 at BCC.ORST.EDU>, brunetj at AVA.BCC.ORST.EDU says...
>
>>   A student of mine is looking for the species name of a giant fern
>>that secretes silica glass shards with poison, originates a long time
>>ago, stands 6-18 feet tall, is touch sensitive and lives in Australian
>>rain forests. Could anyone help? Thanks.
>
>[Sounds like the botanical find of the century, if you've found one that
>fits this description...]
>
>There's no such beast, I'm afraid; it sounds like a very confused, garbled
>combination of bits of several plants. Where exactly did he/she hear of it?
>There are many types of tree ferns in rain forests of Australia and elsewhere
>with stems taller than 18 feet, and a few other big ferns with long leaves
>that get into your stated height range.  There are also stinging nettle trees
>[not ferns] with silicified stinging hairs [but not glass shards], and many
>other types of poisonous plants and still other types of plants with silica in
>cell walls or in intracellular crystalloid structures [none with macroscopic
>shards of glass anywhere, however].  There are a few touch-sensitive plants
>out there; the Venus' fly trap and Mimosa pudica are probably the most famous
>
> ... blah blah blah ...

Their are 3 possibilities as far as I can tell although none display all the
characteristics as you describe. The first is the King fern, Todea barbara this
has a massive trunk to 5' tall with many heads and fronds to 6'.

The second is the King fern or Giant fern, Angiopteris evecta this also has a
massive trunk to 3' with fronds over 15' long.  The third is the Potato Fern,
Marattia salicina, this has a stout trunk with fronds to 12' long.

I hope this is of some help

Bob
Queensland
Australia



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