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Platycerium bifurcatum

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Platycerium bifurcatum
Cultivated specimen
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Division: Polypodiophyta
Class: Polypodiopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Suborder: Polypodiineae
Family: Polypodiaceae
Genus: Platycerium
P. bifurcatum
Binomial name
Platycerium bifurcatum
  • Alcicornium bifurcatum (Cav.) Underw. (1905)
  • Platycerium bifurcatum var. normale Domin (1915)
  • Acrostichum bifurcatum Cav. (1799)

Platycerium bifurcatum, commonly known as the elkhorn fern or staghorn fern,[4] is a species of plant in the fern family Polypodiaceae native to Java, New Guinea, New South Wales, Queensland and Lord Howe Island.


It is a bracket epiphyte occurring in and near rainforests. Growing to 90 cm (35 in) tall by 80 cm (31 in) broad, it has heart-shaped sterile fronds 12–45 cm (5–18 in) long, and arching grey-green fertile fronds which are forked and strap-shaped, and grow up to 90 cm (35 in) long.[4]


The genus name Platycerium comes from the Greek platys (flat), and ceras (horn), while the specific epithet bifurcatum means forked. Both names are referring to the morphology of the fertile fronds.[5]


Some aggregations of these ferns exhibit individuals specialized for different roles. Individuals near the bottom of such groups produce sterile fronds, which soak up water collected by strap frond producing individuals above. The strap frond producing individuals also collect detritus from above. These nutrient and water stores appear to be shared with the group. These observations, in addition to the fact that there appear to be overlapping generations of these plants in the aggregations, have led to the hypothesis that common staghorn ferns may display an incipient form of eusociality.[6]


Platycerium bifurcatum is cultivated as an ornamental plant for gardens. With a minimum temperature requirement of 5 °C (41 °F), in temperate regions it may be grown outdoors in sheltered locations, otherwise as a houseplant.[4] It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[7]


  1. ^ "Species profile—Platycerium bifurcatum". Environment, land and water. Queensland Government. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Platycerium bifurcatum". Australian Plant Census (APC). Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Platycerium bifurcatum (Cav.) C.Chr". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2024. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  4. ^ a b c RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  5. ^ "Platycerium bifurcatum - Growing Native Plants". Australian National Botanic Gardens. Australian Government.
  6. ^ Burns, K. C.; Hutton, Ian; Shepherd, Lara (September 2021). "Primitive eusociality in a land plant?". Ecology. 102 (9). doi:10.1002/ecy.3373.
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Platycerium bifurcatum". Retrieved 6 February 2021.