Selaginella braunii
Arborvitae Fern

Selaginellaceae

Selaginella braunii

Selaginella braunii or Arborvitae ferns, are native to China. Actually, it is not a fern at all, but a Lycopod -- a descendent of spore-producing plants that date back unchanged into the Permian (~320 mya or so). Tree-like relatives of this plant group produced the great coal forests of the Carboniferous. (This plant is sometimes known as a spike moss, but it is not a moss, either.) Selaginella braunii is a clumping species with dark green, leathery frond-like leaves. The plants will reach from 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) in height. They are of easy culture which makes them good container subjects, as well as a great groundcover in USDA zones 6-9.

Blooming Time: Selaginellas are allied with the ferns and do not flower, but they produce inconspicuous 4-angled strobili (spore-bearing leafy cones) on lateral branches.

Culture: Selaginella braunii need partial shade to full shade. They require a well-drained, organically rich soil and shaded conditions. We use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part small pine bark. They like plenty of water and humidity, which makes them good terrarium subjects, or groundcovers under greenhouse benches or as a groundcover in shaded areas of the landscape. They respond well to light fertilizer applications on a weekly basis during the growing season. In containers, water should be restricted in the fall and winter, but the soil should never be allowed to dry. When grown outside as a groundcover they are very attractive when used in conjunction with ferns.

Propagation: Selaginella braunii are propagated by division or by spores. Spores are placed on moist peat and sand mix and covered with glass until the spores germinate. They are more advanced then all but the water ferns because they produce male and female spores. The new plantlets are then potted up into individual containers.

Selaginella braunii was featured as Plant of the Week February 7-13, 2003.

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