Monday, December 27, 2010

Phyllitis sagittata, genuine Mediterranean

The Phyllitis sagittata, a synonym for Asplenium sagittatum, cousin of the Phyllitis scolopendrium, is a beautiful little known fern and dangerously poor living in coastal areas around the Mediterranean from the south and east of the Iberian Peninsula, through the Balearic Islands, southern France, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, mainland Italy, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

Called "Lengua de ciervo" in Spain (Tongue fern, in English) by the curious shape of their fronds of entire blade with two divergent auricules at their base. Their habitats are the cracks of rocks north-facing, cool, shaded and moist, with a predilection for the oozing, as well as caves, streams and ravines. It can also live with some sun exposure if their roots get constant moisture during the drier months.

Vigorous Phyllitis sagittata in May view from above growing in a sandstone block wall that runs along a canal in the Albufera of Mallorca. Crenate edge of the fronds is a phenotypic variant of this fern.

Another old copy of Phyllitis sagittata with crenate edge. Photo provided by an experienced naturalist of the Natural Park of the Albufera of Mallorca, Pere Vicens, discoverer of the population of this fern in a canal in the park.

Bifid fronds beautiful specimen of a snake's tongue, photographed at the Font del Teix on the Serra del Montsià in south of Catalonia. Photo courtesy of the botanist Rafel Curto.

Small Phyllitis sagittata with smooth edge fronds growing in the crevice of a rock in the  Soller Valley on the Island of Mallorca. Although it seems very young, actually not. Its appearance is due to low humidity conditions in which they live, that require very small leathery fronds sprout adapted to the harsh rocky habitat where it fell and germinated spore from which they sprang.

Rocky crevice where small Phyllitis sagittata growing earlier in the Soller Valley at 200 meters, facing north. The layer of moss that surrounds it makes it easier to survive as a sponge to absorb moisture from morning dew. In turn the rock above it acts as a moisture scavenger bell in the cool mornings shutters, so that water condensed on the surface it falls drop by drop into the crevice where the fern has sunk its roots.

This small fern in recent years has had to bear, in addition, the voracity of the feral goats, which as a highly destructive pest is destroying the most endangered flora of Mallorca.

This was a few years ago after being browsed by a goat. Luckily I was this little piece of frond to keep breathing, because otherwise their roots had been strangled and was dead.

In a desperate effort to survive a few turned their tiny rhizome reserves and sprout again after a month. My joy at seeing these new fronds was immense, and therefore presumed dead. I said "My baby, you're a champion of survival, and goats can not with you." It is the only copy of its kind in many acres, a little gem, a hope. Since then I keep several branches covered by black spiny gorse, Calicotome spinosa, which discourage the goats to eat it again.

The little champion does what she can to perpetuate itself. In this photo you can see the sori full of spores on the underside of one of their tiny fronds. Hopefully some of them fall into a rocky crevice substrate and sufficient moisture to germinate and give a daughter.

About 15 kilometers from the small champion, in a wet and gloomy ravine through which the Torrent of Pareis on the northwest coast of Mallorca live this old matriarch of large fronds extended to the light, whose beautiful sori show through to the light. A growing around dozens of its young daughters, who are a hope for the future. (Double click on the photo to enlarge)

Phyllitis sagittata tiny daughters of the old matriarch above, growing in a cave of the gorge with very little light a few yards from his mother, accompanied by Asplenium trichomanes ssp. quadrivalens.

Underside of a frond 10 cm. length with the beautiful symmetrical distribution of the sori along the veins of the blade.

Details of the sori, arranged in parallel, if not more than 13 mm in length with the bivalve indusium entire margin. Mature sporangia are distinguished as small brown balls, ready to disperse the spores. (Double click on the photo to enlarge)

Sporangium of Phyllitis sagittata after dispersing the spores. While all are appreciated parts: the left sporangiophore which serves as umbilical cord and feeds the sporangium, the ring of cells that acts as a placenta and nourish the spores during their formation and clear bag that in the microphotography is torn and empty, where the spores are growing as if it were a womb.

And finally here you can see sagittata Phyllitis spores. As in all diploid ferns are small.

In Andalusia, the tongue fern is in serious danger of extinction, with only a few known populations with few individuals in the Natural Park Sierra de Grazalema and the Natural Park de los Alcornocales in the provinces of Cadiz and Malaga. Is listed as vulnerable in the Red List of Vascular Flora of Andalusia..

Luckily this beautiful fern so ours, so Mediterranean, it can reproduce with relative ease by culture of spores, which is a hope to prevent their complete extinction.

And here you have the test, an almost microscopic Phyllitis sagittata newly germinated after fertilization of  the oosphere of a gametophyte by an antherozoid of another gametophyte at 17 ½ months from sowing the spores. You can see their tiny fronds of light green and around many gametophytes whose oosphere has not been fertilized, each equipped with the rhizoids to absorb water and nutrients from the substrate. Photo taken inside the lunch where I was farming. The spores came from an old tongue fern of  the Albufera of Mallorca. (Double click on the photo to enlarge)

And finally the result after two long years of cultivation: a dozen small Phyllitis sagittata newly transplanted to individual flowerpots. Within a year or less, will be able to be transplanted near his mother, to strengthen the population of the Albufera of Mallorca.


  1. It's great how you write and publish pictures about the flora life near you.

  2. An effective Moisture scavenger in polyurethane coatings. Improves chemical and physical resistance. Low viscosity oxazolidines-based moisture scavenger for use in urethane coatings.