Many species of ferns inhabit the lush, humid rain forests of South America, Central America, Hawaii and Malaysia. Tropical ferns are generally epiphytic but occasionally grow as thick ground cover. Epiphytic ferns -- or tree ferns -- grow on trunks of trees and receive nutrients from their hosts. Nearly all ferns are non-flowering and produce neither fruits nor seeds; instead, reproduction occurs via spores.
Stag Horn Fern
Stag Horn Ferns (Platycerium holtummii) are endemic to the moist rain forests of South America and Asia. Stag Horns are epiphytic perennials; they grow on other species of plants, namely, trees. However, they are not parasitical. Instead, Stag Horn Ferns acquire nutrients from rain and the fallen leaves of their hosts. Stag Horns are similar to orchids in that they do not require soil for growth. Stag Horns are different from other fern species in that they have two frond types, sterile and fertile.
Bird's Nest Fern
Bird's Nest Ferns (Asplenium nidus) are native to warm, humid rain forests. They resemble a banana plant because their leaves are glossy, long and wide. Bird's Nests are predominantly epiphytic, which affords them an ability to proliferate in the air, on hosts. Occasionally, Bird's Nest Ferns thrive on rocks and craggy cloud forest hillsides.
Golden Chicken Fern
The Golden Chicken Fern (Cibotium barometz) is a tree fern variety native to Chinese and Malaysian rain forests. Although the Golden Chicken Fern is epiphytic, it also forms colonies on forest slopes. The Golden Chicken Fern is commonly collected as a medicinal herb. The fern's extensive use is precipitating a reduction in population size; nevertheless, it's not yet endangered.
Hawaiian Tree Fern
The Hawaiian Tree Fern (Cibotium glaucum) is native to Hawaiian rain forests; it's found at elevations ranging from sea level to 6,000-ft. heights. Hawaiian Tree Ferns are epiphytic, but this species also thrives in moist soil. These ferns have green fronds with yellow midribs and reproduce via spores located at the tip of each frond. Regrettably, invasive species --- including feral pigs --- are culpable in the Hawaiian Tree Fern's current population decline.
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