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Pteridomania Today

Articles: Pteridomania Today

Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum Plumosomultilobum Group) Photo: Richie Steffen

Victorians suffered from all manner of ailments from canine madness to hip gout, but the most pleasurable and desirable of these afflictions was and still is Pteridomania or fern fever. The Victorian obsession for ferns was nearly limitless. Fern forays into the wild resulted in the digging of anything with a little variation from the norm. Their hunger ultimately decimated many wild populations, but also led to thousands of selections, some of which are still available today. The popularity of ferns in the late 1800s came to a crashing halt with the hardships of World War I, but a handful of collections survived in the hands of a dedicated few. Choice plants were passed from collector to collector and now, nearly a century later, are regaining their well-deserved popularity.

These Victorian relics are surprisingly common today. An excellent example is Polystichum setiferum, the soft shield fern. In gardens today, the common species is more often found as of one of its old surviving cultivars rather than as the typical ...

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