Ecological indicators of season change (2): Ferns!!

With the onset of winters, the ferns have turned brown in the lesser Himalayas. The winter Himalayan breeze blowing through the mixed forests of Oak- Pine and Rhododendron signals the arrival of winters to the ferns, which grow alongside the moss laden tree barks and  hillslopes of this quiet hillside of Landour, Mussoorie. With the first touch of the cold Himalayan breeze, the ferns begin to turn brown and slowly wither until the arrival of next spring-monsoon.

© Ferns turning brown, mixed Oak forest, Landour, Mussoorie

The browning of Fern is a natural phenomenon and an ecological indicator of season change. It’s very interesting to see how these ferns dry. Each frond is comprised of multiple pinna arranged along the rachis. The pinna starts turning brown from the edges and continues down to the stype ultimately resulting into the death of the frond. Ferns require moist soil composed of lots of organic matter to retain moisture and prefer shade order filtered light.

Ferns are  member of a group of vascular plants that reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. Fossil records reveal that the appearance of the Ferns can be traced back to over 100 million years, even before dinosaurs walked the Earth. In fact, ferns grew before flowering plants existed. There are thousands of species of Fern from which few are inches tall to others which resemble trees.

© Ferns growing on moss laden tree barks

Some of the common fern species found Landour, Mussoorie are members of Pterdiaceae which includes Pteris vittata L., epiphyte Drynaria mollis Bedd. is found associated with Polypodium amonea (Wall. ex Mett.).

There are various species of ferns some of which are edible and some are even considered poisonous. Few of the fern species have medicinal properties. While there are other ferns which are known phytoremediators for example, Nephrolepis cordifolia and Hypolepis muelleri (identified as phytostabilisers of Cu, Pb, Zn and Ni); similarly Pteris umbrosa and Pteris cretica accumulate arsenic in leaves. So, pteridophytes have a number of species that accumulate contaminants.

The ancient fern has a history rich in symbolism and often symbolizes eternal youth. The people belonging to the indigenous Maori of New Zealand believe that the fern represents new life and new beginnings. The Japanese believe that the fern symbolizes family and the hope for future generations. According to Victorians, the fern symbolizes. humility and sincerity.

As the winters are getting more and more chillier, I tried to take few botanical prints of fern ie Fern print before the ferns wither away until next season. Little children of Grades 4 and 5 helped me to create this beautiful artwork of Fern prints.

©Botanical fern print

Thank you!!!

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Published by Dr. Chandrima Debi

Hi, I am Chandrima Debi. I am a Doctorate in Forestry and an independent researcher. Ever since childhood, I experienced deep-rooted connection with nature, forest and wildlife. I have written various research articles, case studies based on geology, forests, medicinal plants, biodiversity and conservation. Through this blog I share my experiences with nature and forests around us and aid towards the protection and conservation of biodiversity, wildlife and the values associated.

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