Garden News Blog

A Fern Grows in Brooklyn

It’s not every day that a federally listed threatened plant establishes itself in a storm drain, but if you peer through the grate on the path leading through BBG’s Lilac Collection toward the Rose Garden, you will see a small colony of hart’s tongue ferns (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum ). The lush, shiny green plants have been thriving in the moss-covered rocks just below the grate in this spot for several years, says Native Flora Garden curator Uli Lorimer.

In the wild, this fern grows in moist, shady crevices in limestone outcroppings. Ninety percent of the U.S. population of hart’s tongue fern is in New York State, mostly in forests along the Niagara Escarpment, the long limestone ridge over which Niagara Falls flows.

Several specimens are growing at BBG in the Native Flora Garden, and spores from those plants likely blew into the drain and found the dark, wet conditions there perfect for germination, says Lorimer. So come to the Garden soon to enjoy the last of the lilacs and the first of the roses—and be sure to look beneath your feet for a peek at this happy coincidence.

Sarah Schmidt edits BBG's editorial content, including the blog, how-to articles, and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.


  • thuta May 22, 2013


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Image, top of page:
Rare Fern Below
Native Flora Garden curator Uli Lorimer checks on a colony of hart's tongue fern that has managed to flourish in the drain. Photo by Elizabeth Peters.
Hart's Tongue Fern
Mature Asplenium scolopendrium var. scolopendrium (hart's tongue fern) in the Native Flora Garden. Genetic testing has revealed these plants to be the European variety. Photo by Elizabeth Peters.