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




Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

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

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)


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:

Unknown - Tell us

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


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

Hayward, California

Stockton, California

Big Pine Key, Florida

Brooksville, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Homestead, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Lecanto, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida

Kailua, Hawaii

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 3, 2016, LaurainHawaii from Hilo, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

Here in Hawaii it is called Moa and is native and therefore of historical importance to Hawaiian people. I have seen it growing primarily on the bases of palm trees in semi shade which its epiphytic nature seems to favor. It also grows in tufts between rocks. As an ornamental plant it is mainly a curiosity ,I feel, although it could be incorporated into landscapes in the way I mentioned because of its cultural significance .


On Jun 12, 2016, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

After about a decade after the original plant died...some stems of this fern have risen out of a pot of Sansevieria. I must have reused the soil from the dead plant...and somehow those stems took a very long time to sprout.
Interesting oddity and I'm sure will be easier in the long run in a plastic pot with rich soils rather then mounting on a tree here in dry air California.


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.



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.


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.


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 consis... read more