Saturday 9 Dec 2023

On a pleasant Saturday morning 13 intrepid naturalists (not the sort that take their clothes off!) met at Fern Factor Ltd to view the wide range of ferns that were growing under cover. Ferns are separated into tree, ground, and creeping varieties. Up to 75 different species are grown, and 55 regularly sell more than 1000 per year.

Fern Factor staff collect spores from ferns throughout New Zealand, and grow the young ferns from them. The spores are sown on trays can take up to a six months to grow, and during this time are kept damp in misting tunnels, and then are separated by hand and then planted into plugs to grow on, again under high humidity. As they get bigger they are transferred into larger pots, eventually in 2 3- years ending up in the size that you see planted at council reserves or at nurseries who are selling them on.

The difference between Fern Factor ferns and overseas (Texas and Holland) is that the ferns are genetically diverse, unlike the overseas ones that are produced by cloning or tissue culture. Therefore you can buy ferns that are better suited for your situation. You have the choice of 12 different species of tree ferns.

The facility is very clean with water from a local bore filtered three times to remove any impurities, and not chlorinated. Ferns are very ancient plants and do not withstand chemicals in the growing phase. Hand weeding is done to control stray mosses, liverwort, and bryophytes, and insect predators are attracted with sundry plants to control gnats etc. Thanks to Paul Michael and Graeme Worner for coming out and explaining the enterprise on their weekend.

Ken Muscroft-Taylor