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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Asplenium scolopendrium 'Cristata'

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 19, 2020

[74-365] 18th. October 2020- The common name for this type of fern is the Hart's Tongue Fern. Having trained you into expecting ferns with two names, this one has three, just because it is extra special and I don't want you getting complacent and resistant to change.

It's not just your bog standard Asplenium scolopendrium it's 'Cristata' too. In the world of ferns it's like adding "Princess" to a common or garden TV actress because they suddenly have their own tiara and Royal heir, soon to be formerly called Prince. 'Cristata' means crested. It has the added advantage in a garden, of being evergreen.

Also called the Crested Hart's-tongue Fern, this variety of Hart's-tongue Fern has pleated, tongue-shaped, leathery, bright green fronds. Plants form low clumps, best suited to the rock garden or for edging in a moist woodland garden.

This Hart is nothing to do with this sort of Heart though, because your Heart does not have a tongue but Hart's do. Hart is an archaic word for "stag" (from Old English heorot, "deer" – compare with modern Frisian hart, modern Dutch hert, medieval French hart, German Hirsch and Swedish/Norwegian/Danish hjort, also "deer"). Specifically, "hart" was used in medieval times to describe a red deer stag more than five years old.

So this looks like something the EU can finally agree on as we all seem to have the same word (almost) for the same thing which in the EU is usually something nobody agrees on, with 24 official languages, which is only good news for translators. Maybe the EU should have a Hart for it's symbol.

So somewhere in the mists of time people wandering along fern festooned lanes decided this fern looked just like a Hart's tongue.

My favourite word so far is festooned. So it's my Word of the day.

Festooned- to decorate a room or other place for a special occasion by hanging coloured paper, lights, or flowers around it, especially in curves:

So I am using it loosely describing ferns in lanes. People didn't actually decorate all those lanes for a party. Presumably the special occasion the festoon is for is a festival. Sure enough in the dictionary festivities comes just before it and Feta comes just after it. I don't think Feta cheese is anything to do with it though. It's a dictionary outlier, as well as being the saltiest food ever devised, although I am sure you could have Feta at a party, particularly a Cheese and Wine party, with high salt levels. My favourite use for Feta is in a Shopska Salad, just promise me you won't add any extra salt, it's really really salty. In fact now that we have government bodies paid to stop us eating salt, Feta is probably well on the way to being illegal, it's so salty. So get in quick and have a Shopska tomorrow while you still can, a full Feta lockdown with Feta fines could be just around the corner, what good will a mask be then?

The first known use of the word festoon as a noun is in 1630, but it also became a verb, as in I festoon, He festoons, They festooneth etc. Festooneth is a particularly good word.

Scolopendrium means centipede in Latin and it is the description given to the spore collections on the underside of the leaf that resemble a centipedes legs. I know, I thought that was a little far fetched too, it was obviously a bit of a slow day in the biology lab when they got to examining it. If they'd had a centipede there as well at the same time they could have called it fernopendrium because it's legs look like the back of a fern leaf. Just an idea.

Interesting scolopendrium fact - Where I live they are ridiculously common, I can't go for a walk without beating my way through them up the lanes, you almost need a machete to get to the shops. All I need is the hat, a whip and a good scriptwriter and I've got a new Indiana Jones classic on my hands.

But in the United States, they are rare. Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum was declared endangered in 1989. Probably because nobody could remember that name. The reason that the European variety is relatively widespread, and the American variety a rarity, has apparently not been established. A third variety, Asplenium scolopendrium var. lindenii, occurs in southern Mexico and Hispaniola. Aaaaaaaar Jim lad. You either get that Hispaniola joke or you don't.

Back to the Hart as in deer. If you have ever popped out for a swift half (that's half a pint, usually beer) in England, there's a good chance you found one in The White Hart. The White Hart is the fifth commonest pub name in England. Many pub names have their origins in heraldry, as it paid to advertise you were loyal to whichever big wig was currently running the show, so the pub name and sign was like having a Trump or Biden sign on your lawn, but without a drink on offer. But it's a dangerous game to play. Many great families regretted finding themselves on the wrong side of history and paid the price of losing everything. New Kings had a habit of acquiring the land of those who were not deemed loyal.

Big wig is an interesting term, and there is no mystery in this one. Ostentation was the order of the day in Bourbon France and over time the wigs became bigger, often to the point of absurdity and requiring of scaffolding. It isn't difficult to imagine how the term 'big-wig' emerged to refer to the rich and powerful. Bigwigs really did wear big wigs.

Makes me wonder what term would serve the same purpose today? How would you in a neat little two word term make a shorthand descriptor for the rich and powerful now?

The White Hart was the personal badge of Richard II, who probably derived it from the arms of his mother, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent", heiress of Edmund of Woodstock. In the Wilton Diptych, which is the earliest authentic contemporary portrait of an English king, Richard II wears a gold and enamelled white hart jewel, and even the angels surrounding the Virgin Mary all wear white hart badges. You see, even the angels were hedging their bets.

In English Folklore, the white hart is associated with Herne the Hunter. The earliest mention of Herne comes from William Shakespeare's 1597 play The Merry Wives of Windsor, and it is impossible to know how accurately or to what degree Shakespeare may have incorporated a real local legend into his work, though there have been several later attempts to connect Herne to historical figures, pagan deities, or ancient archetypes. (mostly Wikipedia today).

So there we have a quick ramble around my garden, down the lanes of Devon, up to the pub and back to Shakespeare. It's been quite a Shakespearean week all in all.

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