Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Didymochlaena Trunculata

Not long ago, an hour I spent
In 'Fairy's Walk,' all flower-besprent,
An Evening hour : Aglaia free,
Thalia, and Euphrosyne,
My sole attendents : Lo ! we see
At our Long walk's extremity,
The Royal Lord of Pena's Towers !
Oft he spendeth pleasant hours
In this Titania's realm, and now
Converseth with Vertumnus : all
Around our lower waterfall,
And ranged above its sparkling brow,
Throng Fays innumerous : Puck doth glide
Therefrom to bland Vertumnus' side. ---
Sudden, invisible we be,
I, and my fairy attendents three,
Even to all Fairies there ; and stand
On his Majesty's right hand,
To walk with him in Fairyland !

True Thomas (Dr. Cargill) narrator of the poem is strolling through the garden, of an evening musing perhaps over the next stanzas of his "epic" [he is accompanied in his thoughts by Aglaia, Thalia & Euphrosyne: the Three Graces]. He spies beneath the "lower falls" and at the end of the "Long Walk" Dom Fernando, the King, talking to Burt, the gardener (Vertumnus, in the poem).

Before we consider their conversation, let's check where in the garden are the "Lower Falls". That is easy: it is the waterfall over massive rocks, below the stepping stones of the lake below the cascade known as "Hippocrene". This then gives us a new toponymy that had escaped me before: "The Long Walk." This must be the long gently rising path that runs from the tiled fountain, below the "igloo," up to the falls. Walter Oates does not use this name, but points out this path as a particularly advantageous diversion from which to appreciate the Fern Valley below. LONG WALK it is then.

Didymochlaena truncatula (Sw.) J. Sm. 1841.
Journal of Botany, being a second series of the Botanical Miscellany 4: 196. 1841-1842

This is the subject of discussion. As usual misspelled by Cargill's printer. It is, as described by the poem, a "bright peculiar fern". And was, we learn, grown also at Pena. Surprisingly this is a fern that is still today encountered in local garden centres. I have never seen it growing in any of Sintra's old gardens. It would be easy to reintroduce to the respective Fern Valleys. Certainly it would thrive in the vicinity of the lower falls, which is one of the few permenantly moist situations of Monserrate, where ferns continue to grow without assistance.

Garden Centre Fern mass produced by micropropagation

Aspidium truncatulum Sw. Journal für die Botanik 1800(2): 36. 1801.


1. D, truncatula, J. Sm. Aspidium truncatulum, Sw. Didymochlaena
sinuosa, Dew.
Hab. Tropics of South America, and Malayan Islands. Received from the Messrs. Loddiges of Hackney in 1838.

THE FERN MANUAL being a description of all the best STOVE, GREENHOUSE, and HARDY FERNS, cultivated in British Gardens 1863
Native of West Indian and Philippine Islands. There is only one species, and even that is rarely met with. Fronds bright green, elegant, about 4 feet high, broadly lanceolate, bipinnate ; pinnae about 9 inches, sessile. Those who have seen it growing in the wild say that it grows naturally in a light rich soil. Considered a Stove species by E. J. Lowe. Length of frond from three to five feet. He lists many of the synonyms given below. Gives date of introduction as 1828. Native of Asia, tropics of America, South America, West Indies, Brazil, Malayan Islands, Hispaniola, the island of St. Domingo, Java, and the Philippine Islands. It is in the catalogues of Messrs. Sim, of Foot's Cray; Rolisson, of Tooting ; Veitch, Jun., of Chelsea ; E. G. Henderson, of St. John's Wood ; A. Henderson, of Pine-apple Place ; Booth, of Hamburg ; W. Cutbush and Sons, of Highgate ; Kennedy, of Covent Garden ; and Cooling, of Derby. E J. Lowe obtained his plant from M. Schott, Director of the Imperial gardens of Schonbrün, near Vienna.

Sir W. J. Hooker, in his Garden Ferns, 1862, uses the name Didymochlaena lunulata Desv.
Habitat, Tropical America : Brazil, in mountain woods, frequent - gives a lot of other citations too, for instance Fernando Po, elevation of 4000 mountains "Peak" Gustav Mann.
Cultivated in the fern-stoves of Kew.
"This splendid plant, in the stoves of the Royal Gardens, has not, with fertile fronds four feet in length, formed a stem or erect caudex more than six and a half inches high, and four inches in diametre. In Ecuador, Mr. Spruce speaks of it as «a tufted Fern, two to five feet high». Mr. Gustav mann describes the caudex in Fernando Po as «stout and erect» ; but in Brazil it would appear to be a Tree-fern, of which the caudex is twelve to eighteen feet high ; at least, as represented on the same plate with Alsophila armata, its trunk is equal in height with it, which is described to be of that size. From the summit of the caudex springs a noble tuft of stipitate fronds, four to five feet long ...
... It is quite certain that all the specimens discovered in America, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific islands, belong to one and the same species, nor do I find any strongly marked varieties. The pinnules indeed vary on different parts of one and the same plant, as is the case with many species of Adiantum, with which the form of the pinnules has no small resemblance.


Didymochlaena sinuosa Desvaux Kaulfauss. Sprengl. Link

Didymochlaena sinuosa Presl. Fee. Martens. Schott, MS

Didymochlaena pulcherrima of Gardens

Didymochlaena lunulata Desvaux. Kunze

Aspidium truncatulum Swartz (Basionym)

Aspidium squamatum Willdenow.

Aspidium cultratum Presl.

Aspidium pulcherrimum of Gardens

Aspidium squamossum Willdenow.

Aspidium truncatum Wildenow.

Aspidium lunulatum Houttuyn

Adiantum lunulatum Houttuyn (NOT OF Burmann, Sprengl, Willdenow, Persl., Moore & Houlston, Hooker & Greville, Wallich, Fee, Retzius, or Rheed) Homonym

Adiantum fruticosum Arrab.

Asplenium ramosum Poiret.

Tegularia adiantifolia Reinwardt.

Diplazium pulcherrimum Raddi

What a lot of names for just one fern!

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