Fern Hunting Episodes


The following stories come from The British Fern Gazette 1909 — 1912 and are engagingly recounted, by Charles Druery.

The Hartstongue Fern
Several years ago, while out hunting in the Barnstaple district, I came to a low parapeted stone bridge spanning a mill leat with a very rapid stream. About 7 or 8 feet down, near the crown of the arch, was a very pretty spiral Hartstongue growing in a chink in the masonry. I could just reach it with my stick, but if I dislodged it, it would inevitably fall into the water and be swept away, as the stream itself was not only swift but inaccessible. Happily, the day being dull, I had my umbrella with me and opening this I suspended it by a string below the arch and subsequently managed to tickle the fern out of its retreat with the extreme point of my trowel, until it fell into the ” brolly ” and was promptly bagged fairly intact.

The Polypodinm Vulgare
A somewhat similar case recently confronted me in the Totnes district, but a far more baffling one. Here it was a clump of a very pretty Polypodinm vulgare with regular roundly-lobed pinnae, a form new to me. This was embedded in a chink so low down that I could only just reach it with the top of my walking stick. The river Dart ran below, but even had I an umbrella, which I had not, the above plan of suspension would not have fitted, since the fern was growing within a few inches of a buttress projecting at right angles, which would have left a large gap between umbrella and wall, precisely beneath the fern. Here was a puzzle, but determined not to go away minus the fern, I cogitated for a while, and then being provided with a ball of string, an indispensable part of a fern-hunting outfit, I made a loose slip knot and coaxing this over the fronds with the tip of my stick I managed to draw it tight and lasso them. This done I lashed my open penknife (the trowel was unavailable) to the stick, and leaning over cut out a good piece of the embedded rhizome until the fern swung out loose at the end of the string, which was then drawn up and the prize bagged.

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