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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Blechnum spicant

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 15, 2020

[71-365] 15th. October 2020- The ferns are back. This one has my favourite name Blechnum spicant, Blechnum spicant, you have to just keep saying it, and I am looking forward to finding out all about it so I can bore you with it.

Blechnum spicant, is a species of fern in the family Blechnaceae, known by the common names hard-fern, or deer fern. It is native to Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa, and Western North America. The Latin specific epithet spicant is of uncertain origin, possibly referring to a tufted or spiky habit.

The species was first described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus as Osmunda spicant. It has been placed in a wide range of genera, including Blechnum (as Blechnum spicant).

It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

I bet that was a glamorous red carpet night out. It's the equivalent of the Oscars for ferns. I'm sure they have little gold fern statuettes and the speeches? If only ferns could speak.

"Thank you, thank you, I couldn't have done this on my own. I'd like to thank Carl Linnaeus my sponsor not to mention the fern leaves that have gone before me with their "much narrower leaflets, each with two thick rows of sori on the underside" without whom I would not have got to where I am today, (because apparently that is how previous Blechnums got spicanty), in a raised bed in South Devon, just having been transplanted because the fence blew down and my owner didn't want the fence guy to trample me down when erecting the new fence." That sort of thing. Don't ferns just go on, they never know when to stop. Give them an inch. Please note I have actually put quotation marks around that fern speech, that's how dedicated I am to the cause of fern blogging.

Talking about Carl Linnaeus.

Carl Linnaeus 23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778, also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné, was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. He is known as the "father of modern taxonomy". Many of his writings were in Latin, and his name is rendered in Latin as Carolus Linnæus (after 1761 Carolus a Linné).

Sounds like a right know-it-all. Swedish wasn't good enough for him, he had to really show off and do it all in Latin.

The most interesting fact I can find about old Linnaeus is this.

Linnaeus's remains comprise the type specimen for the species Homo sapiens following the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, since the sole specimen that he is known to have examined was himself.

So not only did he do everything in Latin he then became the archetypal human being for all time. What we would call today an attention seeker, even your average narcissistic millennial wouldn't go quite that far.

Now you thought you had escaped my opinions on the words "binomial nomenclature". Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? Admittedly after you have untwisted your tongue.

I could say those two words all day. Have you noticed the nom nom. That's two noms, one in binomial and one in nomenclature. (Not nom nom as in "used to express pleasure at eating, or at the prospect of eating ). I like the fact that two such different words used together have the same nom in. I haven't looked this up yet so prepare to be amazed. I am willing to bet old Linnaeus came up with a naming system involving two names, get it? Name/nom is in there twice.

Having started posting about ferns I've noticed, and if you have read any of the other posts you will have noticed too, that they all have two names. That's binomial to us Latin experts. I will have to look up the clature bit though.

Binomial nomenclature ("two-term naming system"), also called binominal nomenclature ("two-name naming system") or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name (which may be shortened to just "binomial"), a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name. (Wikipedia)

Now be honest, I think I explained it better than wikipedia. They seem to have said the same thing about eight times. Back to the clature bit, as far as I can make out it refers to a list so nomenclature is a list of names or a system of naming in a list. Binomial you probably worked out yourselves you geniuses, genii, genie?. Now, how to get you all back in your lamps.

I was just about to wrap up the Blechnum spicant when I made a grave error. I just wondered why it was also called the deer fern. So now I find it is also called the Ladder Fern or Rough Spleenwort. I'm starting to like Rough Spleenwort too.

Anyway I did discover that deer fern provides valuable forage for deer and also people. The roots and young shoots were cooked and eaten as an emergency food; the young tender stems can also be peeled and the centre portion eaten to relieve hunger; the leaves eaten to prevent thirst. The leaflets have been chewed to treat cancer, lung disorders and stomach problems; and a decoction of the root to treat diarrhoea. The leaves were used medicinally on skin sores, which is said to have been learned by watching deer rub their antler stubs in this plant. (native plants pnw. com)

That's me done for the day, a toasted cinnamon bagel has my name on it. If the cupboard is bare I have tender stems and centre portions of Blechnum spicant just outside that I can fall back on.

Another fern post, Pteris nipponica.

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John Durham
John Durham
Jan 27, 2022

Excellent treatise on that fern. A clade (you've probably worked it out by now) is a monophyletic, or natural descendent, group, of organisms. I was never a great taxonomist, but a really good cladist because most of my study was in evolutionary biology. It's nice to see someone with such a keen interest, other than us bio-geeks, in living organisms. Carryon, and mind the spores!

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jan 27, 2022
Replying to

That's quite an experience. I read a lot of Gould and Dawkins and Dawkins always seemed to have a better natural insight than Gould, certainly for me anyway. I remember a lightbulb moment reading Dawkins when thinking I already understood evolutionary theory I suddenly realised I had been way off. Like seeing the moon through a telescope and then suddenly seeing all those stars in the distance and realising there was a much bigger picture.🙂

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