epiphytic fern native to southern Australia; of the genus platycerium belong some ferns, all epiphytes, widespread in Australia and southern Africa; in nature they grow on the trunk of tall trees, at the bifurcation of the branches, reaching conspicuous dimensions, the specimens cultivated in pots have fronds generally no longer than 40-70 cm, there are cultivars with a particularly compact habit. The branches of Platycerium bifurcatum are of two types: at the base of the head the sterile fronds develop, of rounded shape, they tend to constitute a narrow cup-shaped container, in which in the rain rainwater is deposited and organic debris coming from other trees; over time these fronds accumulate, giving rise to a spongy structure, which retains moisture. From the base of sterile fronds branch the fertile, erect or falling fronds, from the particular lobed shape, which reminds the horns of the elk, on the lower page the spores can be found. The color of the fronds of Platycerium bifurcatum depends on the amount of light they receive: plants placed in a dark place tend to become very dark, while the foliage of plants cultivated in bright light are clear. The fronds have a slightly fleshy consistency, are quite stiff and leathery. This variety is also known as Alicorne or deer horn fern.
The alicorne plants are grown in a very bright place, away from direct sunlight; in fact the deer horn ferns can also withstand unfavorable light conditions, such as the shade or even direct sunlight, but only if provided gradually. They are cultivated with a minimum temperature of 10 ° C, although they could withstand brief periods of frost, but with damage to the fronds.
Contrary to most ferns i platycerium bifurcatum they do not need too frequent watering, and can easily withstand periods of prolonged drought; from March to September we water only when the ground is well dry, being careful not to moisten the base of the leaves of the deer horns; during the winter months we water the plants of Alicorne sporadically. To keep the fronds of Alicorne healthy it is good to guarantee a well-ventilated position, and frequently spray the foliage with demineralized water. Two or three times a year we can dilute a small amount of fertilizer for green plants in the water.
To place the deer horn ferns, a soil for epiphytic plants is used, consisting of vegetable fibers, sphagnum peat and small pieces of bark; in general they are grown in hanging baskets.
Plants of this type have a rather rapid growth and must be repotted in the early spring, choosing a container that is gradually larger.
These plants are all propagated by spores or by dividing the clumps in spring. Often at the base small plants develop, which can be detached from the main stole, to repot them individually.
Deer horn fern, Alicorne - Platycerium bifurcatum: Pests and diseases
The most common parasite is the cochineal. To eliminate the problem, if not widespread, it is possible to intervene with a cloth or cotton with alcohol, manually eliminating the parasites. If the infestation is consistent it is good to use special insecticide products.
Plants grown in constantly moist soil can develop harmful root rots.