Golden Leather Fern, Acrostichum aureum, This species was found during a visit to the Matanzas Pass Preserve by Fakahatchee Strand biologist Mike Owen. At the time of discovery we were looking for airplants when Mike spotted the rare fern. Aureum grows a lot in the Strand but not in the Preserve. Aureum is a large species of fern that grows in mangrove swamps. It is salt tolerant. Large fronds grow to a length of 6’. It is as wide as it is high. Leaves are glossy and compound pinnate with 24 to 30 alternate leaf pairs. Leaves have a thick yellow mid vein. Ferns are not vascular plants. Ferns are sporophytes. Brick red spores are produced in the upper pinnate leaves by a reproductive organ called sporange. Spores are found underneath the leaves until they are dropped off. This is a mature plant.
However, the two plants we found are juveniles 3’ to 4’ in height and not in bloom. So now we have the task of monitoring our version of Aureum. We will have to do some hunting. There has to be more species in the Preserve
Ferns are categorized as Pteridophytes. With the arrival of Aureum there are six Fern species in the Preserve.
Photo by James Rodwell