King of Ferns

- Spiny Tree Fern (Alsophila spinulosa (Wall. Ex. Hook.)Tryon)

Spiny Tree Fern

In the Jurassic period of 100 million years ago, our globe was a prosperous and busy vision: the huge gymnosperms such as spiny tree fern, cycad, gingko, and metasequoia grew densely and sheltered the sunlight from shining on the ground; xiphodons ran amuck and went on the rampage, smaller crawling dinosaurs swing in-between trees skillfully; the archaeopteryx scampered forcefully and flew to the sky by fluttering their wings; the huge mammoth elephants and unicorns were striving for spiny tree ferns, which had very rich starch contents; the fierce cabrites opened their bloody mouths and glared at small animals on the banks ... the immemorial plants and animals strived openly and secretly, and the weak became the foods of the strong. Together with one another, they were deducting the history of a long and complicate period on our globe. 

The years are gone, tremendous changes had taken place on our globe. Because the influence of other celestial bodies, orogenic movement took place on the globe; the Peak Everest rose up from the bottom of the seas; in the quaternary period, glaciers appeared on earth. Disasters came one after another, and they brought the animals and plants on our planet with overwhelming disasters. However, in a few places, because of geological and other reasons, some plants and animals survived these disasters, and the plants that survived after these disasters are called "surviving plants". 

Spiny tree fern is the representing plant of all ferns in surviving plants. In the green kingdom of plants, fern is a low-rank group in the high-rank plant communities. In immemorial times, ferns were originally tall trees; since various disasters took place later on, most of them were buried underground and became coals we use today. Nowadays, most surviving ferns are herbs, only a few woody ferns are left, and spiny tree fern is one of them. For the time being, spiny tree fern is called the "living fossil" for researching ancient paleontology and the changes on the globe. 

Spiny tree fern does not blossom, fructify or grow seeds; it depends on the spores on the back of its leaves to regenerate. The spores of ferns are quite different with the seeds of common plants. The seeds of common plants may sprout and become new plants if they fall into proper earth; while, when the spores of ferns fall into earth, they must first grow a heart-shaped sheet, which is called prothallus; prothallus is green, and it has roots under it; therefore, it can survive alone. 

Spiny tree fern is a kind of large-sized fern. It has altogether 650 varieties in the world, and China has 20 varieties. There are three types of tree ferns in the tropical and sub-tropical rain forests of Xishuangbanna, Dehong, Wenshan and Honghe districts of Yunnan. Tree ferns like hot and humid climate, and they often grow in shady and humid places under the forests, or beside rivers and streams. 

Spiny tree fern has many other names and is the only existing woody tree fern today. It is especially precious, and it deserves the title of a national treasure. Now, it has been listed as a Class A plant in danger. The barks of spiny tree ferns are hard and the patterns of the barks are quite beautiful. The barks can be made into vases and other craftworks. The tree marrows are soft and are rich in starch contents, which can be extracted to make food or to distill wines. The marrows can also be used as medicines, and they have the effects of tonifying health and cleaning heat etc. The marrow is called dragon born in traditional Chinese medicine. 

Spiny tree fern is also a kind of beautiful ornamental tree. Its trunk is straight and upright, which can grow as tall as 8 meters. The appearance of spiny tree fern is quite elegant, because many feather-like leaves grow on top of the fern.