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The Exotic Rainforest
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Campyloneurum phyllitidis (L.) C. Presl
Campyloneurum phyllitidis (L.) C. Presl
Formerly Polypodium phyllitidis
Synonyms: Cyrtophlebium phyllitidis, Polypodium comosum, Polypodium conjugatum, Polypodium gladiatum, Polypodium levigatum var. rigidum, Polypodium parallelinerve, Polypodium phyllitidis, Polypodium phyllitidis var. elongatum, Polypodium simplicifolium,
Polypodium phyllitidis var. linneanum, Polypodium phyllitidis var. swartzianum,

Incorrectly Campyloneuron phyllitidis
The genus is incorrectly spelled "Campyloneuron" in some texts

Bird Nest Fern

Tracking down the correct name of Campyloneurum phyllitidis, a very stately bird nest fern, took a bit of time and help.  Botanists have given the species more than a dozen scientific names but I had no clue what genus or species name to begin searching first!  Since the fern is variable, and has more than a single growth form, it has been mistakenly identified by a large number of scientific names, the majority of which are now synonyms.  And to make matters a bit worse, scientists have had some disagreement regarding the correct spelling of the genus name.
Our specimen of Campyloneurum phyllitidis was a gift from a couple that grow orchids in South Carolina.  This couple makes trips to Central America and other locations to collect orchid species.  Regrettably, they did not leave a card when they delivered this and several beautiful orchid specimens to our Exotic Rainforest.  As a result, I've been unable to thank them publicly.  When we received the large fern there was no tag accompanying the plant.  I asked if they knew the species and was told they did not.
So I set out to try to track down a name by posting a request on the UBC plant forum.  A knowledgeable grower named Tony quickly responded with the genus name, "Campyloneuron", but no suggested species name.  Tony had checked a source book on ferns by Mickel & Beitel  and had come up with the genus name.  So, as I often do, I checked TROPICOS, which is a service of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.  Nothing.  So then I turned to the International Plant Names Index (IPNI).  Again, nothing!  But a bit of persistence and fortune led me to the New York Botanical Garden's website and there was a perfect match photo of both the fern and the spore (sori) pattern on the reverse of a leaf. I had located the species, or so I thought.
There was left a lingering question as to why neither TROPICOS nor IPNI recognized the genus name.  Those two sources are the most frequently used and largest plant data bases on the internet.  So I turned to fern expert George Yatskievych, Membership Secretary of the American Fern Society, who is with the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Within a few hours I received this response, "Off-hand your photo appears to be correctly identified.  The species is on Tropicos, in fact there is even an image of a specimen on our site.  However, the spelling we use for the genus is Campyloneurum, not Campyloneuron.  There was a longstanding discussion about the proper termination for this epithet and I believe that things have stabilized to the -um version."  It appears, as sometimes happens with scientific sources, there was just a bit of a discrepancy in the correct spelling of the genus which appears to have been resolved in favor of Campyloneurum ending with "um". 

Once armed with the correct spelling the species was easily found on TROPICOS which lead to the discovery this fern has been granted many different names by many different botanists!  But the accepted species name is now Campyloneurum phyllitidis. 

The species is common to most of tropical America.  Specimens have been collected in Mexico, all of Central America, several Caribbean islands, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guiana Shield, portions of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, and Peru.

Our specimen has the longest frond measuring 58.5cm (23 inches) by 5.7cm (2.25 inches).  Campyloneurum phyllitidis is both an epiphitic fern species (a plant that grows on another plant) found growing on the branches of trees as well as epipetric which means it is capable of growing on stone.  Generally, epipetric species grow on limestone.  The species is often found in the wet mountain rain forest regions of the tropics.  If you grow this species you'll find it prefers a humid environment and enjoys frequent water.  The sori (spores) grow in a very distinctive parallel pattern between the frond's veins on the reverse of the frond.

 My thanks to Tony at UBC for leading me to the correct genus identification and to George Yatskievych at MOBOT for confirming the species identification.  A link to the UBC plant forum can be located on the links page of this website.  A great place to get answers to many plant questions, you can locate that page at the bottom of our homepage.