By Sean Moriarty

A botanist has discovered a rare fern growing in Killarney National Park – so rare in fact that it is the only fern of its kind in Europe.

 

Botanical researcher Dr Rory Hodd discovered the fern, as part of a National Survey of Upland Habitats, in a secluded location within the park – and the site will remain secret to prevent disturbance. He has sent it to the Natural History Museum in London.

“Dr Hodd was plant-hunting in a remote part of the Killarney National Park in County Kerry, Southwest Ireland – one of Europe’s few remaining fragments of temperate rainforest – when he discovered a few specimens of the fern growing on humid rocks. He collected and pressed a specimen and sent it to Dr Fred Rumsey at the Natural History Museum, London, who, working with American colleagues who are experts on these plants, identified the tiny fern as Stenogrammitis myosuroides, part of a distinctive group of ferns known as the Grammitids, rare ferns that usually grow on trees in the tropics,” said a spokesperson for the Botanical Society for Britain and Ireland.

Experts confirmed that this is a rare species of fern usually found growing on trees in tropical regions like Jamaica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The Killarney example was found growing on rocks.

“Drs Hodd and Rumsey agree that it is extremely unlikely that this fern was introduced to Europe by humans, as Grammitid ferns have proved impossible to cultivate and this species grows on rocks rather than other plants, so would not be accidentally introduced on other imported species. Their current hypothesis is that S. myosuroides most likely arrived naturally in Ireland without human intervention. It may, they believe, have been lurking overlooked for thousands of years. The fern’s diminutive size could help to explain why it might have been overlooked until now.”