Excuse me, but your epiphytes are showing….

Plants growing on other plants.  If you could get closer to your source of energy, why not?  The Licorice Fern, or Polypodium glycyrrhiza, is a small to medium sized evergreen fern, native to the Pacific Northwest.  It grows on wet mossy ground, logs and rocks, but is commonly found growing on the bigleaf maple.  Named for the licorice-flavored rhizome, it was used medicinally by Native Americans for colds and sore throats.  This plant is often an epiphyte, growing above ground and supported by another plant.  It derives it’s nutrients and water from the rain and the air, not the maple, then it would be a parasite.  Like a  whale covered with barnacles, the maples don’t move quickly enough to shake off the ferns.  These plants could be used in a moss garden or when restoring or creating a native plant garden. The licorice fern is summer dormant.  It’s green and glistening all winter, but in summer during the drought, it thins and begins to grow again when the rains fall. Get out your field guide (Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon, 2004) and the binoculars and you might spot a licorice fern perching on a branch near you.

Epiphytic Licorice Fern
Licorice Fern on Maple
Licorice Fern
Barnacle covered Gray Whale

6 thoughts on “Excuse me, but your epiphytes are showing….

  1. I love it when plants grow together, in harmony, not like one plant strangling another, that’s alarming. It seems epiphytes use other plants but don’t harm them. I had something like this in my garden growing on some tea trees. I wasn’t sure whether they were good or bad but I left them, they’re still there a few years later and the host trees seem OK. I really must photograph them and find out what they are. Love your blog …

  2. I love the way the licorice fern, mosses, and liverworts look dressing my bare bigleaf maples in winter…I kind of only love the bigleaf maples themselves when they are bare, though. That is a tree best enjoyed on other peoples’ property. I see licorice fern offered in nurseries–I have not yet tried to cultivate any other than my naturally-occurring maple ‘cloaks.’ Have you used it? Caleone

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