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|NEWSLETTER May 2018|
Article HPS NW Group Journal, Autumn 2018
Dryopteris wallichiana AGM
by John Wilkinson
The alpine wood fern first caught my eye growing in the Plant Heritage National Plant Collections of Dryopteris at Harlow Carr and at Sizergh Castle (see image). It is a handsome plant and I have often thought it would look well on our displays at Southport and Chorley FS. Is anybody growing, or willing to grow, a large specimen in a container?
According to RBG Kew (n/d) it was named after Dr Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a surgeon and botanist of Danish origin who was an expert in Himalayan plants. He worked in a medical capacity for the East India Company and was superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Gardens for many years. (Members will probably be familiar with Geranium wallichianum ‘Buxton’s Variety’ AGM.)
The species (there are also one or two subspecies) is found as far apart as Hawaii, Mexico, Jamaica and Himalaya. Its typical habitat is moist, shady woodland and its height is 60-120 centimetres (24 to 48 inches). It appears to be hardy in most of the British Isles. The erect fronds are lance shaped, twice divided with neatly squared-off pinnae tips. In the wild the short stipe (stalk) and the rachis (stem) are often covered in brown scales whereas plants found in cultivation usually have black scales, which are conspicuous on the emerging fronds. As the fronds unfurl, the black scales also make a striking contrast with the bright green segments (Phillips and Rix, 1991; Rickard, 2002).
Plant growth is slow which limits propagation by division. Alternatively, plants propagated by spores harvested in summer come true.
Val Bourne (2005) recommends a wide range of planting partners. For example, the emerging brown knuckles enhance the pure white flowers of snowdrops and later cover the fading leaves; it also looks well with Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’ AGM. Anna Pavord (2009) recommends growing Camassia leichtlinii ‘Alba Plena’ between the unfolding fronds.Sources
Bourne, V. (2005) 'How to grow: Alpine wood fern', The Telegraph, 5 November [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/howtogrow/3336497/How-to-grow-Alpine-wood-fern.html (Accessed 30 September 2018).
Pavord, A. (2009) Bulb, London, Mitchell Beazley.
Phillips, R. and Rix, M. (1991) Perennials (Volume 2, Late Perennials), London, Pan Books.RBG Kew (n/d) 'Nathaniel Wallich', Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew [online]. Available at (Accessed 22 September 2018).
Rickard, M. (2002) The Plantfinder's Guide to Garden Ferns, Newton Abbot, David and Charles.
Dryopteris wallichiana AGM