Giant Leather Fern – Shape, Shadow and Home



Wilderness areas, as messy and tangled as they are, are filled with pleasing textures and a geometry of form and shadow. Like many photographers, no matter what the intended subject for the day, I stop at most any interesting pattern or attractive shape I see. This of course clogs my computer quite a bit and drives my pack rat nature into the digital world. You never know when you might have a use for something!! Right??

The giant leather fern, Acrostichum danaeifolium, is Florida’s largest fern and besides its tremendous size, growing typically 6 feet tall but can reach 12 feet, offers lots of interesting texture, shapes and shadows. Florida is the only state this species is found but it also lives in Central and South America and in the Caribbean.  The fern grows in coastal hammocks, mangrove swamps and on the fringes of canals and ponds. The fern grows in large clumps in many of the wetland areas I go to shoot birds and is often home to the nesting birds. The leaflets are quite leathery looking and substantial and the undersides of the fertile leaflets are coated with reddish spore cases looking much like a coppery felt. The greens and copper colors are quite lovely even when the fronds dry up and curl into intricate circles. The pinnately divided parallel arrangements of the frond leaves delivers great shadow patterns in most any angle of sunlight. The plants are also used in landscaping schemes and are quite hardy all year round.

In all probability, these won’t be far from my viewfinder when I encounter them in their various forms.







White Egret rests on a Giant Leather Fern Frond. Its
chicks are in a nest deeper within the clump of fern.

These images are from various times of year and I do look forward to cooler temperatures and exploring the Florida wetlands and rookeries soon!



~ by Judy on October 6, 2018.

19 Responses to “Giant Leather Fern – Shape, Shadow and Home”

  1. Welcome back, Judy. You have been missed over these past months. Your photos and subjects are wonderful as always. I have not heard of the Giant Leather Fern and am astounded at its size!

    • Oh thank you so much. I have missed being here and keeping up with everyone too!! Finally even missing Photoshop and playing around with my images. Life got in the way but I am trying to reassert creative endeavors!!

      Yeah, the Giant Leather Fern is an amazing plant, very evocative from a prehistoric sense. Ferns have that kind of mystique anyway!! Louisiana Herons and White Egrets do seem to favor the large islands of fern for nesting even though they are still fronds and move about in the wind. Probably as I post more bird images you will now see how many sit among those leathery fronds.

  2. What beauty you bring us once again, happy to see you back here. Exquisite shadow photograph. I adore your fern theme. Have you ever eaten Fiddlehead Ferns? I have seen recipes but haven’t taken the plunge. Your Egret on the fern is beautiful. I was thinking of your Egret photos when I encountered one on my lake today. They are not plentiful here. I have seen one this year, one last year, none at all the year before, and so I always appreciate your Great Egrets. Great post, Judy. Best, Babsje

    • I am so pleased you mentioned the shadow photo. That is one thing you see so often out in the wild,tangles of plants with curves and parallel lines overlaying each other in the light with shadow. Always so tempting to capture those and you can see how our architecture mirrors those natural geometries. Some things are simply wired into us as beautiful in a universal sort of way I think. We love the chambers of a nautilus in the same way we love curved staircases. Thanks for all the nice comments on the egrets I will be thinking of you this season each time I observe one through my viewfinder.

      • Thanks Judy! My own Egret photos are not in the same ballpark as yours, nor as a memorable one from Mike Powell years ago. I’m glad you pointed out the shadow photo. Is it “life imitates art” or vice-versa?? Best, Babsje

  3. Hey, Judy, these fern photos are fantastic.
    I agree, ferns make a fantastic subject; I too have trouble resisting. But 12 feet tall? Wow. Unless forced up by lack of light, ours don’t grow above the waist.
    I love the silvery paleness in that scroll. Ours, being small, go first golden, then brown, but always small.
    Great to see your photos again

    • Yeah, I figured you would go for those fern. You like the tangle of plants and flowers and fungus and things as you encounter them too. I guess I will shoot those curls of dried leather fern fronds often as I kind of have a quest for a perfect whorl into infinity sort of thing. Endless circles getting smaller and smaller and further away in an organic sort of way. I love fern of all sorts and we have so many species here in the swamps of Florida.

      • So lucky. Our wetlands are mostly manahed; those that are not are inaccessible without a boat (small, preferably flatbottomed, and even then you might be trespassing. We have marshes, but they’re just meadows that flood some winters and are grazed by geese. But then we do have woods where the ferns flourish. As too do the fungi. I’m out tomorrow with fingers crossed. Going to pinewoods, which around her are unusual. I’m just hoping our friendly venomous reptiles will have decided its cold enough to go underground for winter. Otherwise they’ll be basking. And that’s when they’re easy to stand on. Do NOT step back to line up that shot, without first checking. That is the secret, I have discovered.

      • We have snakes too but seems like it is the gators I have to look for. They can be pretty intimidating when they rise up unexpectedly. Be careful out there!!

      • Well, it’s 20 years now since a person died of adder bite. But only cos everyone knows to get to hospital quick, and ever hospital stocks the antidote. It’s not that there are less bites, or they’ve become less venomous. But, weather gone could, the pesky things have probably all gone to sleep.
        And I think I’d rather face the adder than a gator. No antidote to their bite, hey.

      • Well they have big teeth but no POISON!!

      • But once a leg is gone … 🙂

      • LOL, I guess dealing with Gators is like dealing with Sharks, they don’t particularly go after people but when they do a big wound is involved. Snakes…tiny wound but poison can be devastating depending on species. Hopefully we can avoid all critters when adventuring…spiders, snakes, bees……….

      • Now you’ve got me shuddering. Though UK has no poisonous spiders, and no nasty bees.

      • And I’m thinking of up here, where we have rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact, the ONLY remaining colony of copperheads in eastern Massachusetts is just on the other side of Boston from here: the Blue Hills. I’ve gone hiking there. Problem is that copperheads don’t have rattles and generally try to stay still when threatened, but if you step on them, they will bite. Necrosis in the immediate area of the bite is a serious problem.

      • It’s said that adder doesn’t but unless trodden on. IN the summer they’re warm and as soon as they hear you they get out of the way. But early and late summer they’re inclined to bask in the sun, and cold-blooded, they’re too lethagic to move. Then is the danger. And well might they hiss to warn you, but that can be startling. Especially when your foot is hovering above it! 🙂

  4. It’s so good to see you posting again! I was in deep east Texas this week, and staying in a cabin in the woods. I’d not expected to be without internet there, but so it was. Actually, it came and went, but I got tired of having it cut out completely in the middle of a comment, so I decided to wait until I got home.

    I’m just astonished by these ferns. I had no idea there was anything this large in your area — or anywhere, for that matter. It looks like something from New Zealand. The intricacy is marvelous. The first photo reminds me of a bishop’s crozier, and the thought that an egret can perch on a fern is astonishing. I really like the contrast in the third photo, too — between the green leaves and the curly dried portions. What an amazement.

    • Sounds like you had fun and time away from electronics restores us to nature better even if we feel stalled in the sharing part. We humans are a pretty compulsive bunch and good to have that nixed now and then! I have always loved all kinds of fern as one of the most prehistoric and evocative of plants. And yeah, definitely the large ones do seem rather otherworldly and as if there ought to be dinosaurs around somewhere. The leather ferns I guess I first saw when hiking and was advised of the name. Which did seem fitting as they certainly are not delicate as a maiden hair fern, very leathery and heavy looking. I do love the way they curl when dried and contrasting against the green leaflets.

      I had to look up ‘Bishop’s Crozier’ naturally… educate me all the time…and THIS IMAGE looks very close and there were many other images on the web of such things. So cool!! You inspire me to show other glades textures buried in my files. 🙂

      • That’s exactly the sort of image I had in mind. It’s even closer than I’d imagined.
        Yesterday, I went to a Nature Conservancy site two hours east, and found drying ferns there. I was on the trail of some other things — I got photos of a white gaillardia that grows only in that one country in all the United States — but the place is filled with ferns. It’s a whole different ecoregion — and I learned that east Texas shares longleaf pine with Florida!

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