Brown & green balls on Boston fern roots

Victorville, CA

I just dumped out my Boston fern from it's rather large pot as it was looking as though it was failing. As I was shaking out the roots there are numerous grape shaped balls attached to the roots. Though these aren't completely unfamiliar to me, I can't remember the significance or what exactly these are. I've looked at many sites trying to figure this out but haven't found a thing. I probably am remembering something from high school Biology which is almost 40 yrs ago but this is driving me nuts. An answer would be appreciated as this will nag at me. Thanks.

(Zone 1)

Those are root bulbs ( well that's what I call them, I don't know the correct term) .... they spread underground and make many more plants! You can plant those just under the soil and have lots more ferns before long!

Down here in Florida those ferns are very invasive. We have dug thousands out of our yard over the past 25 years and they are still everywhere! They travel and sprout up all over the place! I will be digging in flower beds where we have removed them and find many of those bulbs.

Victorville, CA

Thank you for your reply. I have had this fern for a number of years and it has needed repotting a few times due to root growth. This is the first time these fern "grapes" have shown up. This fern has spent the entire summer outdoors but in a pot. Our high desert weather in the Mojave Desert is HOT in summer but "it's a dry heat" like temps over 100 are so much easier to tolerate, NO. Though I was in Charleston,SC during a July several years ago and I thought I'd die between the heat and humidity. I kept the fern in the shady area with a few other plants so perhaps with the additional heat and some humidity the fern was able to progress to a new level. I can imagine that ferns could go hog wild in your area, perfect growing conditions. Out here, the fern would be toast in two hours of summer sun and the heavy clay soil would guarantee no survivors.

These ferns are supposed to be sterile so to have more plants it requires taking new growth but if new plants can be started from these grapes, I would think starting new plants would be easy. One university site was speaking to the fact of sterility in Boston ferns and the fact that there is a shortage of this fern for the nursery market yet it would seem that nature creates a solution. I'm thinking that I saw these same growths on an asperagus fern many years ago. Well I'm glad to know what my discovery was.

SW, WI(Zone 4b)

No comment on the tubers, but I found it interesting that someone stated there's a shortage of the Boston Fern for the nursery market.....seems that I see these at literallly every nursery I visit (including the supermarkets and box stores)....and in *abundance*!!

(Zone 1)

Oh my goodness ... I don't know how there could possibly be a market shortage on Boston Fern! Someone could become a "gazbillionaire" here in Florida if they wanted to take the time to dig those suckers!We have mostly sand in my area of Florida but those Boston Ferns are still a lot of hard work to dig up!

And, don't get me started on the Asparagus 'Sprengeri' ... those are MONSTERS! We made the mistake of planting those years ago and still haven't totally gotten rid of them all. Hubby built me two very large wooden boxes on either side of the end of the driveway. The Asparagus Ferns were really beautiful draping over the sides but those things ended up hanging all the way down to the ground and dropping berries ... ended up taking over my Azalea bed, where I had also made the mistake of planting a couple of Boston Ferns that ended up multiplying and both were hard to eradicate. Hurricanes took down the large trees next to the area and we transplanted a few of the old Azaleas to a new location, some were too damaged to save, from the large trees falling on them. We finally were able to get a little bobcat machine in to dig out all of the ferns.

My husband has a very large heavy truck for pulling our boat and one time he tied marine grade dock line to the undercarriage of his truck and around the base of a large Asparagus fern to try to get it out of the ground ... it broke the rope! Those plants are very strong and tenacious! I still have one bed by the back driveway that is full of them ... I want them out so bad but we can't have a bobcat machine in there because it is where the water line is coming into the house and we sure don't want that broken. It will have to be cleared by hand. I have cut them back to ground level so many times only to have them be huge and full within a couple of weeks. My neighbor keeps telling me to pour gasoline on them but I could never do that, I hate even to use chemicals because of possible contamination of the ground water.

So many plants are pests and some downright invasive here in the South. I have learned that the both the Asparagus and Boston ferns are best kept in hanging baskets here in my part of the world.

This bed along my back driveway is overrun with the stuff. I's a snake haven during spring and summer so if we ever get around to clearing the space, it will be during winter months!

Thumbnail by plantladylin
SW, WI(Zone 4b) does *look* beautiful!!

I've heard of people stating that when it's really hot and sunny, that pouring pure vinegar on weeds will kill them....I wonder if that would work for your pest, Lin? Probably would take a truckload of vinegar, eh? ()

Woodway, TX(Zone 8a)

Vinegar kills top growth only. Asparagus fern will come back from the roots time after time.

(Zone 1)

hee hee ... We've tried that on weeds at the end of our driveway ... the tops die out but they end up growing back from the roots. That's just little weeds, don't think it would work on the ferns. We've tried boiling water for killing weeds with no effect either! Florida is just a haven for anything with roots! LOL.

Mount Prospect, IL(Zone 5b)

This has been very interesting reading - I have trouble in my yard with cinnamon fern being invasive and very hard to get rid of. It snuck under the fence from my neighbor's yard and I've tried for two years to get rid of it by digging it up and spraying it with Roundup, but it just pops up somewhere else several feet away, even in the middle of the lawn! It also started being really sneaky this year by coming up in the middle of perennials so it was really hard to remove without damaged the plant I wanted to keep. Who would think such delicate looking plants could be such monsters!

(Zone 1)

They sure have the will to survive, don't they?

Victorville, CA

I know that it sounds shocking to hear there is a shortage but when I googled Boston Fern, several sites made the statement that this fern is sterile and does not put out spores, it clearly referred to the Boston ferns and that new plants had to be started from plant division. At least one site referred to the shortage. They were very specific about the Boston fern, dating back to the late 1800's brought to America aboard a ship. It may be very precise and not any sort of cultivar. I don't know how we could ever be sure that any Boston fern purchased is pure stock, it maybe that a commercial fern was created that has all the looks but can be propagated easily.

I'm not a big fan of chemicals but with invasive plants I wouldn't have any problem using RoundUp. My dentist who also is quite the gardener extraordinare always reminds me that RoundUp is a very safe chemical designed to become nuetral when it hits the soil. It does not travel into the soil and kill everything it touches. I am forever chasing Bermuda grass that pops up here and there. It requires constant survellience and spraying immediately before it sends out additional threads.

My junk that I can't get under control is common purslane. Since it is not native to this area, we think that it was brought in with the amendment products that our landscaper laid down when he put the backyard in. Horrible stuff and I know that it can be eaten but I can't bring myself to consume something I hate so much and causes me so much work.

State of..., MA(Zone 6a)

If you are willing to put up with some inconvenience, you can get that bed under control without digging it all out by hand. I have had a couple of similar invasive weed problems in our garden, that digging out only made worse. I gave up on my vegetable beds for three years because I was tired of fighting with it. Finally, it was suggested to me to smother it out, with a layer of plastic for a whole season. We had a large roll of heavy duty plastic left over from ice rink days when the kids were little and we used that. If you don't have that you can get a tarp at HDepot. After mowing it all down to the ground, just cover the entire area that has the plant growing in it and leave it in place, preferrably at the hottest time of year and not only will the plant not get light and hopefully very little water, but you will be baking it. If you have black plastic all the better. I have a dark blue heavy duty tarp I left over a weedy area that is waiting for some work to be done. We left ours in place a whole year because it was in a back corner that we didn't have to look at and we wanted to be certain it was gone. [g] I see yours is right under your This solution fit us because of the location of that weed area, maybe it would be a great inconvenience for you, but at least it is another option.

I can't imagine why anyone would recommend that you pour gasoline on your soil. Talk about one of the worst things you can do. Not only does it damage the soil and everything living in the soil, but pollutes the groundwater.

In reading posts where people have accidently spilled gasoline on the soil, it was recommended that they remove all the contaminated soil and get new topsoil. That's how bad it is.


Apex, NC

As a grower of plants here in NC. The reason for the talk of a shortage of ferns is because it takes so long for Boston Ferns to get to a nice large size that consumers would want to hang on their Porch. They also have to be grown in heated greenhouse 's starting in the early fall - spring kept above 65 degrees, with the price of fuel the past few years growers are chosing not to grow them

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