Wild Ones presents program on 'Ferns: Our Living Fossils'

Wild Ones Natural Landscapers will present a program on “Ferns: Our Living Fossils” from 7-9 p.m., Thursday, April 21, at the Burpee Natural History Museum, 737 N. Main St., Rockford.

More than just a lacy trim around the hem of trees, ferns are a welcome softness, a finishing touch to the woodlands. They are respected elders of the woodland setting, having been around since the Devonian Era (345-395 million years ago) before the time of the dinosaurs. True living fossils, they were the dominant flora during the Carboniferous Age. Most of these became extinct, leaving us with some 12,000 living species today.

Ferns are very specific about where they will grow. Conditions of their niche must be met, or the fern will not grow successfully there. More ancient than flowering plants, ferns have developed a complex way of reproducing. Sadly, ferns, like so many of our native plants, are being threatened by those who dig them indiscriminately in the wild for use in both private and commercial landscaping.

Fern gardener Tim Kessenich will introduce us to these living fossils and will discuss techniques for growing native ferns in your woodland garden at the monthly meeting of the Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. You will learn about fern anatomy, how to select species that are easy to grow, and information on companion plants. And, if you want more ferns than you know what to do with, you will learn how to easily grow these beautiful plants from spores, learning how their propagation differs from flowering plants.

Tim Kessinich is a geologist by training, who has a long-time interest in Wisconsin’s native flora. He has been growing ferns and woodland wildflowers at his home in Madison for more than 25 years, and has propagated native ferns for projects in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and Governor Dodge State Park.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call Virginia S. Watson, (815) 398-0138.

From the April 20-26, 2005 issue

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