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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Pteris nipponica

Back in October 2020 in lockdown times I was looking for things to photograph that were close to home, hence the biscuit posts and a series of fern posts. This was the first of my fern posts.


Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 01, 2020


[57-365] 1st. October 2020- I warned you. Incoming ferns. Although it sounds more like a flying dinosaur extra in a Godzilla film in this case.


Pteris (brake) is a genus of about 300 species of ferns. They are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. So it's pretty remarkable this is still alive in a South Devon garden in Northern Europe.


The term "brake", used for members of this genus, is a Middle English word for "fern" from southern England. Its derivation is unclear, and is generally thought to be related to "bracken". I always wondered why large ferns on Moorland in England were called Bracken, now I know. Everything I investigate this week seems to originate from Middle English.


The Latin genus name Pteris refers to the Greek name for fern (also meaning feathery). You can see why they got their name.


As for the nipponica, some of you stamp collectors will recognise the other name for Japan, Nippon.


"P. nipponica is an evergreen fern with erect or arching fronds to 45cm in length, pinnately divided into 3-5 pairs of linear pinnae, each with a broad central creamy-white stripe the plant range is Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea."


Interestingly in taxonomy the subsequent parts of the name are not upper case, so even though nipponica relates to the name for a country, in this case the n is lower case. I bet you are all relieved to hear that.




This the fernery. Still quite young and not fully established. A work in progress. I started it at the height of lockdown so most of these arrived in little pots by courier. Most from a specialist fern nursery. They all got a bit baked early on in a heatwave before they were fully established so some suffered a bit. I only lost one which I thought was a good success rate. I have left room for them to grow as one or two will make substantial plants. Once some of the sturdier, hardier ones get to a better size I can squeeze some more delicate ones into the shady gaps in between.


As for the name Nippon? The word Japan is an exonym, and is used (in one form or another) by many languages. The Japanese names for Japan are Nippon and Nihon.


I didn't know what an exonym was. But as it turns out an exonym (from Greek: éxō, 'outer' + ónuma, 'name'; also known as xenonym) is a common, external name for a geographical place, group of people, individual person, or a language/dialect, that is used only outside that particular place, group, or linguistic community.


So if you were in Japan/Nippon and I was singing to you, it would go something like this. " You say Nipponese I say Japanese, Nippon, Japan, Japan, Nippon, Let's call the whole thing off."


One of the newest elements to be identified and named is Nihonium. Nihonium was first reported to have been created in 2003 by a Russian–American collaboration at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, and in 2004 by a team of Japanese scientists at Riken in Wakō, Japan.


In 2015, the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party recognised the element and assigned the priority of the discovery and naming rights for the element to Riken, as it judged that they had demonstrated that they had observed element 113 before the JINR team did so. The Riken team suggested the name nihonium in 2016, which was approved in the same year. The name comes from the common Japanese name for Japan.


Don't get me started on elements or this post will never end.


As a side note the Japanese Katsu Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in the Meiji period and is therefore considered by the Japanese to be a Western cuisine rather than an Asian cuisine.


I am fascinated by how names for foods develop all over the world in relation to their arrival and who brought them. That's for another day though. All I am saying for now is Swede, Brussel Sprouts and Turkey. And that is practically a whole meal just there.


I don't know yet if there are any ferns you can eat, I will let you know.

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