Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 11, 2001

Davallia fern has many names, various uses

By Heidi Bornhorst

Davallia is a popular fern many people cherish and grow. It is beautiful and has a variety of uses — landscaping, garden development, weed control, floral arrangements and even for hair decorations.

The plant is known by several names: shinobu fern, rabbit foot fern, hare's foot fern, ball fern, and of course plant taxonomists refer to it as Davallia.

The fronds are tough, almost leathery when mature, finely divided in a lacy pattern, and glossy. It is also a less thirsty fern — once well established in the ground. The rhizomes (specialized roots) are covered by fine rusty brown hairs (thus the rabbits foot moniker).

Landscape designer Leland Miyano is a proponent of this tough and attractive fern. He likes using it in his garden designs to create a lush look, without expending too much water.

Miyano likes to use Davallia as a temporary filler — letting other plants fill in around it, inhibit growth of weeds and it gives the garden a finished look even as work on the garden continues.

You can see Davallia growing lushly on the grounds of the contemporary museum in the Makiki heights, which is a garden that Miyano spent several years renovating. The approach to that garden is a bit different, a good example for gardeners of an environmentally friendly style of landscape maintenance.

For all you hard-working gardeners, who rarely see your garden during the day, be comforted in the fact that Davallia, with its lacy shapes and intricate patterns, is great for nightscaping, too. A little subtle night lighting brings out the evening beauty of this fern. The patterns the fern's shadows cast are pretty and rather relaxing to view.

Florists, hairdressers and hula dancers can appreciate the benefits of Davallia for its beauty and durability.

I like this fern for traveling, or when flowers and ferns are in short supply. You can wear it in hair with flowers all day, rehydrate it in a vase of water overnight and it is fresh and perky for another day.

This fern is fairly easy to grow and readily available at garden shops and plant sales. You can grow it in the ground, in a pot or "in the air." It grows well with epiphytic orchids and can grow on tree branches or on large boulders. They look great in hanging baskets on your porch or lanai or wherever you can hang them.

Davallia was brought to Hawai'i by garden lovers. There are many species, and they are native to the tropic and subtropic region of the eastern hemisphere. One particularly nice species is Davallia fejeensis from Fiji. Its common name is the lacy hare's foot fern.

Foster Botanical Garden is a great place to see Davallia. It is grown on boulders amidst mondo in the prehistoric glen. It is on tree branches and large boulders in the Lyon wild orchid garden, and scattered about the garden as an ornamental filler.

Heidi Bornhorst is director of the city's botanical gardens — Foster, Lili'uokalani, Wahiawa, Koko Crater, Ho'omaluhia. Write to her care of The Advertiser Homestyle section, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802. Or e-mail her at islandlife@honoluluadvertiser.com.