Rare fern found at garden shop

BY BERNARD CARPINTER
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2009

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It was thought to be extinct, but there it was, growing out of a crack in the wall at an Otane garden shop.

Jack Ritchie was amazed when he saw a story and photograph in the newspaper about the discovery of a fern that had been thought extinct.

"We had one growing here at the shop," said Mr Ritchie, who runs a gardening business in Otane, in Central Hawke's Bay.

However, it was not as simple as that the almost-extinct tetraploid maidenhair spleenwort fern was very similar to another relatively common fern.

Now Te Papa botany curator Leon Perrie has confirmed, after genetic testing on the fern, which is growing in a crack in a water feature at the shop, that Mr Ritchie's fern is rare.

"It must have come with some rocks I brought in to build the water feature," Mr Ritchie said. "A couple of years later it sprung up. It's very pretty; the fronds stand up whereas most ferns curl over.

Mr Ritchie is thinking of trying to grow new plants from the fern, so he will be able to offer customers something really unusual, but that will take at least two years.

Dr Perrie found the fern near Waipukurau late last year and his discovery was reported in The Dominion Post.

On that trip he and colleagues found only nine of the ferns in the wild, but last month he and Mr Ritchie went to the area Mr Ritchie had got his rocks from.

"We found a good population about 70 plants growing on limestone outcrops in pasture," Dr Perrie said.

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- The Dominion Post

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