( Written By Louwrens Opperman)
The name is derived from the word “bifurcate” which means to fork or divide. The fertile fronds divide repeatedly and are mostly held erect and appear to be repeatedly forked.
Platycerium bifurcatum is Native to Australia with a wide natural distribution along the East Coast of Australia. The chances are the first Platycerium a collector will own will be a bifurcatum as it is the easiest and most versatile of all the species. It is also the species that includes the most variation in growth forms or cultivars.
As stated earlier they are easy plants to grow and will adapt to quite a wide range of conditions. I have seen them growing in full sun or full shade, with the only difference is that the sun grown plants tend to have shorter fronds and are a lighter green than plants grown in full shade. I prefer to give them dappled shade with lots of air movement. I find that they do best out doors here in Pretoria. When kept in my greenhouse they are plagued by mealie bugs. My plants have survived light frost in the past with very little damage.
The fertile fronds are mostly held erect while the tips of the fertile fronds might droop downward or even curl downward in some forms. Some forms have narrow fertile fronds while other forms have exceptionally wide and impressive fertile fronds. Each fertile frond has a life span of a few years and then turns brown naturally and will drop off eventually. Spore is borne at the tips on the underside of the fertile fronds. The shield fronds or base fronds have prominent serrated or scalloped tops and tend to curve forward to form an open top to collect water and organic debris. A new set of shield fronds are formed every year, and a healthy plant might even make more than one frond on each side. Here in South Africa (Southern Hemisphere) they tend to form them during our winter.
This species forms pups very easily and eventually forms huge clusters that will cover whole tree trunks. They do well in hanging baskets where they will cover the whole basket in a few years forming a large ball of ferns, which makes an excellent focus point on a patio or outdoor living space.