I wish that I had made the one about ferns that he shared with me. It is so like him; so precise. I am not sure what to do with this observation. Neither did he. It might have been made by someone else but it flowed out in conversation on one of our field trips.
“Have you ever seen a Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides Michx. Schott) with a blemish on any frond? Have you ever seen one with a disease or an insect “bite"? He asked.
Ferns are believed to be among the oldest living plants. They have weathered storms, diverse epidemics, and hordes of insect and other creatures over a thousand thousand years and here they are … clear and shiny in the back yard. All of the other plants have spots, chunks removed. Rarely the fern. This plant has to contain the mother of all insecticides, fungicides, and molluscicides.
I have never seen damage on ferns from snails and slugs. The deer rarely eat the adult fronds. Several fern species have had historical medicinal use in removing tape worms.
Someday someone will study the plant, isolate the resistant and repellent substance(s), attribute the discovery to “biomimicry” and claim it a victory in the “green” or organic gardening wars.