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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Woodwardia unigemmata

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas NOVEMBER. 21, 2020

[108-365] 21st. November 2020- Time for another fern post. I'm running out of options fern-wise as some are now dying back for winter, so this may be the last one before Spring unless I do a die back special.

Woodwardia unigemmata, the jewelled chain fern, is a species of evergreen fern native to Eastern Asia from the Himalayas to China, Japan and the Philippines. Growing to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall by 2.5 m (8.2 ft) broad, it bears pinnately-divided fronds which emerge red and turn green when mature. It occurs in areas of high rainfall.

This plant is grown as an ornamental, and in the UK has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It is an imposing architectural subject which is thought to be hardy down to −10 °C (14 °F). However it requires a sheltered position in well-cultivated, reliably moist soil. (Wikipedia)

I am a little alarmed having just Googled it because I am sure it didn't say it would be 2.5 metres wide when I bought it. If that turns out to be true, it is in a small corner where I will need to keep it pruned. It does sound spectacular though and I have it not far from my tree fern so I may end up with a ferny jungle towering over me.

I note it is an evergreen which is why I was still able to photograph it when some of the other ferns are already rusty brown. The unigemmata part of the name refers to the single gemma that appears at the end of each frond. The gemma is the new plant and this fern grows very long fronds which produce a single large gemma which weighs the frond down to the ground where it plants itself to form a new plant. Pretty amazing stuff.

Woodwardia was first described by James Edward Smith in 1793. It was named after Thomas Jenkinson Woodward. When broadly circumscribed, the genus contains about 15 species (plus some hybrids).

Woodward was described by Sir James Edward Smith as one of the best English botanists; and it was in his honour that Smith named the fern genus Woodwardia. He was joint-author with Samuel Goodenough of Observations on the British Fungi, London, 1797, and contributed papers to the Philosophical Transactions and the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London between 1784 and 1794, on fungi and algæ.

Born 23 Feb 1745, he was a native of Huntingdon. His parents died when he was quite young, leaving him, however, financially independent. He was educated at Eton College and Clare Hall, Cambridge,where he graduated in 1769. Woodward was appointed a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for the county of Suffolk.

Woodward was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1789. He died at Diss on 28 January 1820, and was buried there. He left no issue.

He left no issue- That's a very poetic way of saying he had no children, it doesn't mean he died without starting any arguments. After all he died at Diss he didn't actually "Diss" anyone.

Diss- to treat with disrespect or contempt : insult. From disrespect, modern. People were very polite back then when they weren't shooting each other in duels.

The Linnean Society of London is a learned society dedicated to the study and dissemination of information concerning natural history, evolution, and taxonomy. It possesses several important biological specimen, manuscript and literature collections, and publishes academic journals and books on plant and animal biology. The society also awards a number of prestigious medals and prizes. A product of the 18th-century enlightenment, the Society is the oldest extant biological society in the world and is historically important as the venue for the first public presentation of the theory of evolution on 1 July 1858.

Darwin famously presented it although Alfred Russel Wallace also came up with virtually the same theory at the same time. Some even argue he did it before Darwin. The Wallace Line or Wallace's Line is a faunal boundary line drawn in 1859 by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace and named by English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley that separates the biogeographical realms of Asia and Wallacea, a transitional zone between Asia and Australia.

The patron of the Linnean society is Queen Elizabeth II. Honorary members include Emeritus Emperor Akihito of Japan, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (both of whom have active interests in natural history), and the eminent naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

King Carl Gustaf reminds me of a funny story about name dropping. In recounting the story I am name dropping too, the irony is not lost on me. In a former life I was a Picture Framer and created hand finished pieces for sale in the gallery I managed. One of my customers was a world famous conductor who shall be nameless, who had a wife who was a world famous performer who shall be nameless. I had created a rather nice hand finished mirror frame and it was in the window display. Nameless performer comes in and says "what a lovely mirror", so I retrieve it from the window and she says "I'll take it, I've just spent the weekend with King Carl Gustaf of Sweden and he has one just like it in his summer house". Well I'd like to know where he got it as he didn't buy it here thinks I. I had a rule at work not to look impressed by this sort of event (and there were others, one involving a Duke another involving a novelist, two novelists come to think of it) so I made no comment. But I did think it was one of the best casual name drops I'd ever heard.

And that story reminds me of one I heard of years ago, it was overheard by a comedian in a cafe in London, it may have been Victoria Wood. Two "ladies that lunch", trying to out do each other. The British call it "oneupmanship", the fact we have a word for it says something in itself.

One lady says to the other, "Do you have swans on your lake?" The other lady says "Only on our larger lake." Don't you just love that? The most subtle expert "oneupmanship" you could get.

I will now segue into my own swan story. Will this post never end? Back in January we were having central heating installed when a swan appeared on our drive, hanging around and getting in everyone's way. The heating engineers thought it was hilarious and were out there putting their arms around it and taking selfies, and feeding bits of their lunch to it. The weather was foul, fowl, get it?

We all suspected that something was not right with the swan so we spent about thirty minutes ringing round various animal centres asking for advice. No one answered the phone. Swan sanctuary I thought, so I rang them. Recorded message "If you have an injured swan, hang up and call the RSPCA. If you want to donate money press one" What? You're not interested in an injured swan you just want money? Great. Still no one answered the phone and the swan, now bored, wandered off so we gave up.

Next morning the heating engineers turned up late, big drama, huge traffic jam, police, swan on the road, chaos. Not road-kill I hasten to add, just in the way. The police put it in their van and took it to the swan sanctuary. Four months later the swan turns up on the creek again, back from the swan sanctuary. How do I know all this? The police have a Facebook page and give regular swan updates.

Segue is my word of the day, pronounced as in the two wheeled device called a Segway.

Segue- a movement without interruption from one piece of music, part of a story, subject, or situation to another: Borrowed from Italian segue (“it follows”) , from seguire (“to follow”), from Latin sequor; originally a term used in a musical score to indicate that the next movement or passage is to follow without a break.

I suspect it moved within the entertainment industry from music score to lyrics to filming and storyline, and after general use in film and TV entertainment broke out to general everyday use by mere mortals not in the entertainment industry.

Not a lot of people know this but all swans on open water in Britain are owned by the Queen. This derives from the time when only Royalty could catch and eat swans. We are assured The Queen is not still eating them now, I should think they taste a bit fishy and tough, but the tradition remains and every year on the Thames in London there is a ceremony called Swan Upping where all new swans from that year are caught, weighed, ringed and set free. So I feel I can honestly say we have had a Royal visitor, even if it wasn't King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, just a swan with a broken wing.

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