Our Staghorn

Well, Mr. MM and I finally gave our staghorn a proper home. I was himming and hawing about what sort of base to use for our fern. Vintage board, section of log, driftwood, plaque?

The city had just finished cutting down a tree on Main Street when I drove past and saw the perfect opportunity for a base!  A slice through the tree that was cut down. When I asked the workers if I could have a piece for this project they actually showed me a number of options.  How nice … and surprising. I think this is the best on offer.

A slice of Main Street.

A slice of Main Street.

Staghorn ferns are like orchids in that they do not require soil to grow. They attach themselves to other plants to gain nutrients without harming the ‘host’ plant. They have two sets of leaves, sterile and fertile.  The sterile leaves form a shield that covers the roots and helps it attach to the ‘host’. The sterile leaves are brown, crispy, and look dead … but they aren’t. Do not pick these leaves off. The fertile leaves grow out of the center of the shield in the shape of staghorn ‘antlers’.  Crazy.  I just love the shape of the leaves and the form of the plant itself.

It’s nice that the slice still has bark on it. Mr. MM took the electric sander to the cut sides to smooth out the chainsaw marks.  I slathered the cut sides with beeswax to stabilize the wood so it will not dry out and crack.  I didn’t want the bark chipping off so Mr. MM sprayed the bark edges with a finishing spray.  We’re planning to have the wood (and fern) sit on a table so we installed protective ‘feet’ under the wood slice.

There seem to be as many ways to mount a staghorn fern as there are to skin a cat. Gross. Here’s what we used:

1.  Staghorn fern (see post about Terrain)

2.  Sphagnum moss (Michael’s)

3.  Florist wire (Michael’s)

4.  Black plastic mesh (our basement)

5.  Drill and bit

Mise en place.

Mise en place.

Why these items?  The moss will be the base on which the fern will be mounted and the mesh will cover the moss (and fern) to hold it in place until it attaches itself to the wood.

Here’s what we did:

1.  Decide where the fern will be mounted on the wood.  Drill four holes at what will be the perimeter of the shield.

2.  Soak the sphagnum moss in water until saturated.  Wring it out so it is wet but not dripping.

3.  Mound the moss on the board.

4.  Remove the fern from the pot and loosen the roots.

5.  Cut a hole in the center of the plastic mess and put it around the base of the fern above the roots but below the shield.

6.  Place the fern on top of the moss and position it just so. Our wood slice is angled so we made sure the shield is at the high end of the slice.

7.  Once you have the fern situated, cover the fern’s roots with pieces of the moss.

Here’s where it gets tricky:

8.  Thread the wire from the bottom of the slice through one of the holes (keeping a nice length sticking out the bottom), loop it through the plastic mesh several times and thread it back through the diagonal hole from which it came. Repeat four times so you have a thread originating from each hole.

9.  Take the wires that are sticking out of the bottom and tie them to each other so that the mesh, moss, and fern are secure to the wood.

10.  Spritz the leaves with water.

11.  Fuss for hours figuring out where to set the mounted staghorn fern.



Let's hope he lives!

Let’s hope he lives!


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