Asplenium nidus: Bird’s nest fern

Family: Aspleniaceae
Common name: Bird’s nest fern, Crow’s nest fern

A lovely fern plant that you could grow indoors or outdoors, Bird’s nest ferns will soon become the envy of your neighbors. They are by nature, epiphytes growing on other trees, in the wild. But they also grow well on the ground, in pots or rock gardens, near water bodies, or in hanging baskets.

Bird’s nest ferns can reach a height of 1-1.5 meters with large banana-leaf-like fronds that are light green, almost phosphorescent. The leaves are large with plain or ruffled margins, and a dark-color midrib that becomes pale towards the tip.

The leaves are also characterized by sori underneath the leaves, which produce spores for reproduction, characteristic of ferns. They are native to tropical African and Asian countries, but are now favorites with gardeners all over the world, especially in warm, humid weather.

Bird’s nest ferns do not prefer direct sunlight, and the fronds may brown if there is too much sun. So keep them in the shade and provide good humidity. It’s a good idea to keep the pots immersed in a bowl of water filled with pebbles so that the soil never dries out. Bird’s nest ferns do not like to be moved frequently, once they are established in a place.

With regular watering, occasional fertilization, and some tender, loving care, your Bird’s nest ferns will flourish, becoming bigger with each set of leaves until they fill a large area or the pot they are planted in. Always move the plant to a pot that’s slightly bigger than the roots, and not too big.

As the leaves brown, they roll back creating big structures that look like birds’ nests, giving the plant its name. The central area of these plants retains moisture, providing water and a cool ecosystem for many small insects to grow.

Common variants are Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy wave’ with ruffled leaves that are sword-shaped, Asplenium nidus ‘Antiquum’ that has wavy-margined leaves, Asplenium nidus ‘Victoria’ with long tongue-like fronds, and Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’ with long leaves that have rippled margins.

Plants growing in sunlight usually have ruffled margins to prevent exposure of the leaves to direct sunlight, whereas those growing in the shade having flatter margins. Bird’s nest ferns can be grown indoors near a window that gets moderate sunlight.

Once the plant is growing well in an area, do not interfere too much by moving or touching it. The delicate leaves get damaged or folded when you try to move the plant frequently. They do not need much fertilization, as strong fertilizers can cause the plant to yellow and die.

Propagation is through spores, which are released when they are mature. These spores will produce new plants when they fall on a suitable medium. A parent plant can also be cut into multiple pieces, each having a small piece of the stem, each piece capable of producing a new plant.