Nephrolepis falcata: Fishtail sword fern

Family: Nephrolepidaceae
Common name: Fishtail sword fern, Fishtail fern, Aspidium biserratum, Nephrolepis davallioides, Tectaria falcata

Yet another beautiful fern to adorn your indoor and outdoor spaces, Fishtail sword ferns have lovely drooping fronds. These plants can grow to a height of 3-4 feet with green pinnate leaves that are forked at the end, like a fish’s tail. There could be 5-6 forks at the ends, each fork further subdividing into smaller ones.

The leaves grow to a length of 1-1.5 feet and the leaflets are 4-6 inches long. The midvein on the leaflets also fork beautifully splitting along the leaves and extending to the tips. The leaves are initially erect and later droops gracefully outside the edges of the pots.

Fishtail sword ferns are ideal for hanging baskets, flowerpots attached to balcony railings, tall tables kept indoors so that the fronds can fall over the edges of it, or even normal pots in gardens, terraces, balconies etc. In short, these exotic ferns look beautiful in almost any setting, giving your garden a tropical ambiance.

These ferns reproduce through spores contained in sori; black rounded spots underneath the leaves. When the leaves are young, the sori are covered with a thin film and not clearly visible. When the leaves mature, the spores are dispersed by wind and water. If they fall on viable surfaces, these spores can produce baby plants.

Fishtail sword ferns can also reproduce through underground roots or tubers. They develop epiphytic roots above the soil, which are capable of absorbing water and nutrition to sustain the plant. Ferns can also survive on trees, fallen logs and shallow soil due to the presence of these epiphytic roots.

All ferns need moist soil and frequent watering. It is a good idea to keep the pot inside a shallow vessel filled with water and pebbles so that the ferns never dry out. They do not need direct sunlight, and are capable of thriving in partial shade.

Fishtail sword ferns are ideal plants to grow near ponds, rock gardens, garden sculptures with water bodies etc. since they flourish with abundant water. But make sure that they grow in well-drained soil so that the roots do not rot during to water logging.

Propagation is through spores, by splitting rootballs and also through underground stems or rhizomes.

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