This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
By this time we have ascended the ravine far enough to find a few oaks and pines on the steep sides, mingling their shade with that of the alders and cottonwood which border the stream. Here and there on these acclivities are seen the sturdy clumps of two shield ferns, Aspidium rigidum var. argutum and A. munitum. Both of them prefer a gravelly soil, and, although re-quiring very little moisture, keep bright and fresh the whole year. The ample, wide-based tripinnate fronds of the former are usually strongly curving, and about three feet in length; the other is of the same height, but more rigid in habit, and its narrow lanceolate fronds are simply pinnate, with auricled leaflets. High in the mountains has been found a rare variety of this fern (A. munitum var. imbricans).
Our canyon now becomes narrower, and shut in by high rock walls, and we come to a place where the little stream leaps down a precipice fifty or even a hundred feet high; the thick pines help to shut out the rays of the sun, and the water broken into spray, drenches the rocks with a.perpetual mist, and maintains a refreshing coolness. Look up and see how the whole face of the cliff is fluttering with feathery maiden hair. Every crevice is full of them; here is Adiantum pedatum,* its shaft of shining ebony bearing aloft a broad crescent frond of the most delicate texture and color; here A. emarginatum and A. Cappillus-veneris wore their long drooping plumes, and with them are mingled the beautiful Cystopteris fragilis, its fronds of tender green, set off with black fruit-dots, and sporting into an infinite variety of form. A little away from the mist of the fall the majestic Wood-wardia (W. radicaus var. Americana) curves its grand fronds and dips them into the pool below. These are five or six, and even ten feet in length, and have a tropical luxuriance that forms a beautiful contrast to the grace of the delicate ferns above.
If we climb around the falls and follow our stream to its source, we will find, rooted in the miry black soil, the handsome Lady Fern (Asplenium Filix-foemina), so widely distributed through the country. Not so high up there is occasionally found another Spleenwort (A. Trichomanes var. incisum), its small dark-green pinnate fronds clustered at the base of some dry crag. It is quite rare.
The ferns already mentioned, except those noted as rare, are very generally distributed, and may be confidently sought whenever there is found the conditions suited to their growth. But there are others more restricted in their distribution, and some are even confined to a single tract a few acres in extent. They belong to the drought-resisting genera Cheilanthes and Notho-lsena, which in summer become entirely dry, their curious fronds rolled up into compact balls, and showing the colored powders, the scales, or the felted hairs of the different species. But although so dry that they crumble in the fingers, and the roots snap like dry twigs, yet they are not dead, and at the first shower the old fronds unroll bright and fresh, and new ones begin to push up around them. The writer has taken them up when in the dry stage and kept them hung in an open shed for six months, and when planted they started into vigorous growth.
*This fern is sometimes said to be deciduous, Out it seems with us to be eyergreen.
One of the commonest of them is Cheilanthes Fendleri; its lanceolate frond, six or eight inches long by two wide, is subdivided into minute segments, bright green on the face, and on the back covered with an abundant coating of chaffy scales, white on the young fronds, and passing through different shades of brown until it becomes ashy-grey on the old ones. In some places it is quite abundant, growing in the crevices of partially shaded rocks. Nearer the sea coast there are two somewhat similar species, C. myriophylla and C. Clevelandii. There also grows the most beautiful of the genus, the Lace Fern (C. Californica), whose well proportioned triangular frond, supported on a polished brown stipe, is divided and subdivided into threadlike segments. It is remarkable in being quite free from the hairs or other appendages so common in members of this genus. On our small hills, Cheilanthes Cooperse hides itself from the sun at the bottom of deep fissures in the rocks. It is a delicate fern, seldom six inches high, and the fronds have on both sides a light coat of fine long hairs. Still rarer, perhaps the rarest of all North American ferns, is Cheilanthes viscida.
It grows, but not at all abundantly, in a few rocky ravines near the mouth of the Arroyo Blanco, a little stream that loses itself in the desert. It clings to seams in the rocks, in positions entirely shielded from the sunshine. Its fronds are almost as finely divided as those of the Lace Fern, but are narrowly lanceolate in outline, and about six by one and a half inches. They are covered with a viscid secretion, so abundant as to cause them to strongly adhere to the paper when drying them.
On all the mountain slopes of this desert region, there is an abundant growth of the pretty little Notholsena Candida. Its elegant triangular frond is subdivided into numerous, closely set pinnules, and the white powder that is lightly dusted over the frond is more abundant around the edges of them, so that they are set off with a faint silvery border; on the reverse, this powder is very plentiful, and in the successive phases of growth, changes from white to yellow, and then brown, and is finally hidden by the rich chocolate of the spore cases. When seen in the summer time closely rolled up, and projected in serried lines from the narrow cracks in which they are rooted, they look like rows of little white and brown fists thrust out in the face of the sun; for they choose a place exposed to the fullest rigor of his glare, and flourish on bare rocks that become uncomfortably warm to the hand. Yet they are the easiest to cultivate of all the genus, and if kept moist will remain expanded all the year. In the same neighborhood! there is a plentiful supply of Notholsena Parryi,. a curious little fern, clothed above and beneath with a close felt of fine, long hairs, white in the young growth, and light brown in age.
Its favorite place is the shady side of a large, firmly-bedded boulder, but it sometimes grows on the shady side of a rocky bluff. The closely related Cottony Fern (N. Newberryi), has the same preferences, but finds them in a different region, the dry hills south of the Santa Ana river. It bears a general resemblance to Parry's Fern, but is a little larger (six by one and a half inches), and the tomentum, which exhibits nearly the same range of color, is of a different nature, having in the former a kind of wood-like appearance, while that of the present one resembles cotton. It is especially pleasing in early spring, when the milk-white young fronds curl about the bases of the rough stones in a charmingly graceful manner.
Besides the ferns already mentioned, Crypto-gamme achrostichoides has been found in this region, and last year added Woodsia Oregana; but as the writer has not yet had the good fortune to see them growing, he can only, add their names to complete the list.
The drought-resisting ferns, such as Gymno-gramme triangularis and the various species of Notholsea, Cheilanthes and Pellsea would probably be well suited to home cultivation. They are at home in a dry atmosphere, so that the air of stove or furnace heated rooms would not be apt to be as injurious to them as it is to many kinds of ferns. If not wanted in the summer, they could be set away in some dry place until autumn. Most of them are easily cultivated, and their novel and curious variety would make them objects of great interest.