December 6, 2009

Oak Leaf Ferns - Old Leaves Protecting New Ones

I am wondering how many people know that ferns (yes like the meedin that we eat almost every day)  are a very ancient family of plants: early fern fossils predate the beginning of the Mesozoic era, 360 million years ago. They are older than land animals and far older than the dinosaurs. They were thriving on Earth for two hundred million years before the flowering plants evolved.

In Sarawakian folk lore the fern is a very important feature in the art of pua kumbu amongst the Ibans. Indeed it is one of the major five patterns in Iban traditional art.

The photos below depict the Oak-leaf Fern or Drynaria quercifolia  which is an ephiphyte. If you care to look up at older trees you can either find the Rajang or the Oak Leaf Ferns. There are many of such epiphytes in Miri and Marudi. Many are also found in Brunei. These places have kept many of the older trees in spite of the rapid development. Hence you see more of these epiphytes. Some parks even try to transplant the Rajangs and the Oak Leaf Ferns from the jungles as part of their beautification programmes.

If you look closely at the photos you will two sets of leaves : the brown leaves which form a nest by overlapping each other thus forming armour plates around the green ferns/rhizome. These nest ferns function as "trappers" of debris and as 'funnels' directing nutrient-enriched run-offs of rain water from the tree canopy to the rhizome.

The longer and greener foliage leaves are the "living" ferns which serve as photosynthetic leaves and are capable of producing spores.

The lower browner leaves look like oak leaves hence these ferns are called Oak Leaf Ferns.

These oak leaf ferns have inspired many artists and designers in recent years. Earrings and special pendants have been designed to look like these beautiful ferns. Some serviettes  and even table cloths have oak leaf fern designs on them. I have seen several oil paintings depicting these oak leaf ferns.

Here is another shot which shows that the  green foliage of the ferns grow very upright and are happily nested on the trunk supported by the brown leaves.

There are hundreds of species of ferns in the equatorial rainforest and today many green houses all over the world are trying to grow them as house plants. An Indian scientific report even says that this Oak leaf fern may cure tuberculosis. But definitely ferns will continue to be sensitive indicators of our ever changing global temperature and moisture levels.

So next time you visit a garden or trek up a hill try to catch a glimpse of  oak leaf ferns.

When God created the earth and these ferns He must have wanted to remind Man and his future generations of reverence for life. (Albert Schweitzer)

In so many of His creation He brings reminders to mankind. In my opinion the Oak Fern serves this purpose very well. The older browner ferns are the parents who lay down their life to bring about the new generation. And as they lie dying their leave formation continue to capture food for the younger foliage.

How tight the older leaves hold together to provide that safety net for the younger leaves! And I do hope that all parents are just as protective and supportive of their children!


wenn said...

great information..

Jay said...

I did wrote about mangosteen last night after repeated doing editing until i done it at 2am. Will read what you have wrote about it. By coincidence we wrote on the same topic. Anyway I have took a picture of rambai tree.

The above entry is very informative.

Have a nice week ahead and happy reading.

Jay said...

Just finished reading your mangosteen post. It Ok and its good sharing in different view.

Ann said...

The Maoris like the Kuro or spiral shapes of the ferns, and make it their art. the Kowhawha. When I first saw the Kowhaiwhai kuro, I think of the Iban patterns.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Wenn
Thanks for visiting. Aren't they lovely? Oak leaves are well known decorative patterns.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I read your write up the stories of your climbing of mangosteen trees...
You are very gracious.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hope to see the rambai tree soon.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann

I like Maori art since the day I learned the Maori version of the song "Hurry Hurry Home" from some of the teachers who returned home from NZ after their training. And then finally I had a good neighbour Cherry in Sungai Merah (I blogged about her...).

I love the movie "The Whale Rider".

So many similarities can be drawn from "Minority "Art.

Have a great week. My relatives from Auckland are around!

Bengbeng said...

we r planning to go :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
Hope you have a good time at Borneo Rainforest. But just keep your mind open in case you find the food not as good you expect.

If we are not registered we have to pay a stiff entrance fee of RM25...People turn back from the resort.

Ann said...

Cherry. is she Ang Mo married to a Sacred Heart Boy? She lived in Sibu for a while. I met her twice, once this CNY and her husband, forgot his name.

This year is really a year of reunion for me. Met so many ooold friends.

This is going to culminate with a 1/2 a family reunion at Christmas.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Yes Cherry is Kiwi married to John Tang from Sacred Heart. They live in Auckland?

Please send them my regards if you meet them again.

Her sister in law (my student) should be in New Zealand too...

Bengbeng said...

Sadly it has been postponed sigh sigh sigh i am so disappointed

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Don't worry.

the weather is not promising.....

God bless....

Ann said...

Re: Cherry and John

Such a small world. I met the this year, you like a photo of them? I took it during this year's CNY at Robert and Margaret Ting"s. ( Private viewing) as I didn't blog any of them.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Oh Ann

How wonderful....Pls send one to my email?

Phyllis M is in Auckland. Check out the telephone directory under Tang.

You know the lawyer Rose Tang?

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Sarawakiana@2 said...


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