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Dicksonia antarctica, from the collection in the Ferns Greenhouse
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)

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Description

The Montréal Botanical Garden's fern collection primarily includes tropical and subtropical specimens that are grown in greenhouses where they are protected from cold Quebec winters.

Of course, the Botanical Garden also grows a number of hardy species from temperature regions around the globe, 12 genera and some thirty species from six different families, which can be seen in the outdoor gardens.

With some twenty families represented, about 80 genera and 300 species, the Montréal Botanical Garden has a very large Pteridophyta collection. The Pteridophyta includes flowerless and seedless plants that have sap-bearing vessels. Ferns are part of this group.

North, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Africa and Europe are all represented in this collection.

This rich, highly diverse collection is constantly expanding and ranges from tall tree ferns to tiny species representative of the group, and from terrestrial to aquatic and epiphytic specimens.

Tropical collection: a greenhouse devoted exclusively to ferns

Among the Garden's ten exhibition greenhouses, one of the five largest ones has housed the fern collection since it was built in 1958. But behind every exhibition greenhouse accessible to the public there is a service greenhouse. Every botanical garden has its little secrets, which are often kept hidden! In order to maintain a collection of live plants, we have to grow more than one specimen at a time. A service greenhouse is like a nursery for an outdoor garden. It is sort of a “waiting room” for new arrivals, a “beauty salon” for specimens that need a rest and an “infirmary” for those needing special care. Two small greenhouses, both of them a bit dated but still full of charm and tropical atmosphere, hold soon-to-be-displayed specimens.

You might think that a greenhouse devoted excusively to ferns would have little to offer visitors looking for brightly coloured flowers. But slow down as you make your way through the Ferns Greenhouse and admire all the different shades of green and the elegant shapes, or make some new discoveries as you stroll along the paths through the Shade Garden and enjoy a delightful sense of inner peace. You're sure to want to come back often!

The hardy ferns collection

This collection is found in the Shade Garden. Although it is small, it does include some thirty species, most of them native North American plants, along with a few exotic species from Europe and Asia. It also has some forms and cultivars that are deeply divided (very lacy), especially curly or mottled.

Finally, there is a collection of Quebec ferns in the First Nations Garden.

History

History of the Montréal Botanical Garden fern collection

Thanks to his many contacts at other botanical gardens, Henry Teuscher, the Montréal Botanical Garden’s first curator, started the fern collection right from his earliest days at the Garden. He brought home the first pteridophytes, for instance, from trips to the United States. Starting in 1937, the Garden had maidenhair ferns (Adiantum), staghorn ferns (Platycerium), and spikemosses (Selaginella), plants that are still grown here today. From his travels in the tropics, he added the first ferns and spores collected in the wild to the Garden’s growing collection.

Marcel Raymond, the Garden’s second curator, further enhanced the collection. In fact, he focussed some of his research and observations on ferns. Like his predecessor, he also brought new species back to the Garden from his tropical travels.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Clarence Horich, a German plant collector living in Costa Rica, sent the Garden many plants from that country. The Elaphoglossum collection, in particular, originated with his special contributions.

Even today, we add to the pteridophyte collection through seed and spore exchanges with botanical gardens around the globe, purchases from specialized growers and occasionally thanks to botanists’ travels at home and abroad.

Where and when

Ferns Greenhouse: year round!

Perennial Garden, Shade Garden, First Nations Garden: June to September

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