That’s just one of the messages that adorn the T-shirts of American Fern Society members, who presumably can then ID each other and talk ferns all day. This and other tidbits from the world of fern-lovers was revealed by Oliver Sacks in a recent article in the New Yorker. Turns out this best-selling neurologist-author (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) is a fernie himself and attended a recent Fern Foray in New York City where he and a dozen others were flattened against an embankment of the Park Avenue railroad trestle "peering with magnifying glasses and monoculars into tiny crevices in the stone." Fern Forays have been going on for over 100 years but this particular day the group included a poet, 2 teachers, a mechanic, a neurologist (presumably Sacks), and a urologist – men and women aged 20 to 80.
Founded in Victorian times with Darwin as their icon, the American Fern Society is "one of biggest international fern clubs in the world", with over 900 members worldwide. (There’s more than one? Imagine the rivalries!) Members of the Torrey Botanical Society, founded in the 1860s, also participate in the forays, though their primary interest is the world of mosses, liverworts and lichens. According to Sacks, "Ferns are a bit too modern, too evolutionarily advanced, for them, just as flowering plants are for the rest of us." I guess they won’t be posting on Gardenblogger Bloom Day.
All this raises one question in my mind: How on earth do people become fanatics about one particular plant group and if I may say so, especially one that’s so primative and unassuming? What kind of people are turned on to, say, liverworts? But just look at all the plant societies [pdf]. Orchids have their fans, gladiolas have theirs (maybe funeral directors) and Siberian iris,too. Ditto penstemon, dianthus, fuchsia, gloxinia and cactus. But why these and not others?
On the other hand, isn’t nice to see that not everyone is glued to their TVs, their iPods, their (name that device) but are outdoors observing and enjoying nature. Go fernies!