Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Whisk Fern, Skeleton Fork Fern, Moa
Psilotum nudum

Family: Psilotaceae
Genus: Psilotum (sy-LOH-tum) (Info)
Species: nudum (NEW-doom) (Info)

Synonym:Lycopodium nudum
Synonym:Psilotum floridanum
Synonym:Psilotum triquetrum
Synonym:Bernhardia antillarum
Synonym:Hoffmannia aphylla

6 members have or want this plant for trade.


Unknown - Tell us

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)
9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:


Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From spores

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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There are a total of 15 photos.
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3 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive JaxFlaGardener On Mar 14, 2008, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

In a sense, this may be the evolutionary grandmother of all vascular plants. With its primitive structure of being all stems, with no leaves nor roots, it may have been one of the first plants to make the move from ocean to land, but there are no fossil records that far back of the Psilotaceae.

I also had trouble growing this plant in my garden soil. I found it did much better after I had it established the Whisk Fern in my greenhouse in a plastic pot, then sunk the pot into the ground without transplanting the Whisk Fern directly into the soil. I have since found the plant around a Mexican Fan Palm in my garden, but it probably came in the pot with the palm at the time I bought the palm. It is often seen as a "weed" in greenhouses.


Neutral Cretaceous On Mar 25, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

I purchased one from an online nursery in mid-December 2006. It was planted in a spot with good light and protection from the elements, but just seemed to slowly dry out.

This plant is native to Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Windward Islands, Gabon, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tanzania, Zambia, Vietnam, and New Caledonia.

Positive artcons On Jul 20, 2005, artcons from Fort Lauderdale, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

I have had Whisk Fern, Psilotum nudum growing in the "boot jacks" of my Sable palm for several years now. The conditions in the bootjacks are ideal for it's survival. Plenty of moisture, light and rich growing medium.
I have been able to remove pieces and grow them im my nursery area.
The plant is a Florida native.

Positive punaheledp On Jul 6, 2004, punaheledp from Kailua, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

this is an interesting plant that I found growing in one of my pots a few years ago. Its still going/growing in the pot (Don't know what happened to the plant that was originally in that pot). It's currently nestled in the plant bed under some ginger. get's a moderate amount of sun and frequent water since the ginger needs it. It's greener now with those conditions, was yellow/green before with more sun/less water. Didn't know what it was til I came across info on UH Botony site. Copied (some edits) info from their page below:

Psilophyta. The Psilotaceae are leafless and rootless terrestrial or epiphytic homosporous, protostelic vascular plants comprising 2 genera and less than ten species. The free-living sporophytic plant body is a dichotomously branching stem consisting of a subterranean mycorrhizal rhizome and a green, photosynthetic aerial portion that bears very small nonvascularized scale-like flaps of tissue called enations and 2- 3-lobed eusporangia or synangia on very short lateral branches. The independent gametophytes are bisexual, subterranean, lack chlorophyll, and depend on a symbiotic fungus for survival. Biflagellated sperm produced in an antheridium must travel through a film of water to reach the egg of an archegonium in order to initiate the zygote that may develop into a new sporophyte individual.
Psilotum nudum, moa or whisk fern. This is one of two species of the genus that are native to the Hawaiian Islands... dichotomously branching stem, minute enations, and lateral synangia which release hundreds of white spores. The Hawaiians collected large quantities of these spores and used them like talcum powder. Each synangium consists of 3 fused eusporangia on a very short lateral branch.
-------------------------------------------- Cool.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Big Pine Key, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Homestead, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Lecanto, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida
Kailua, Hawaii

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