Unidentified shield fern (Polystichum sp.), growing on a brick dividing wall separating the front steps of adjacent terrace houses in East Melbourne.
This was a single plant that had no obvious spores, and could not simply be torn from the wall to get a better look at other tiny characters, making for a difficult identification. However, it had something of the harder, glossy character reported for Japanese Lace Fern (P. polyblepharum), and looked different enough from (presumably native) shield ferns in beds nearby in Fitzroy Gardens.
This fern has since died back heavily as a result of the year’s dry, hot summer; we will look to see whether it recovers, whether future growth produces spores, and whether any additional specimens turn up in the area.
Naturalised and quasi-naturalised urban ferns are arguably under-recorded in Victoria and generally. Spontaneous instances of ferns on structure or other built elements within the city may typically be of little immediate importance from an environmental or economic standpoint (these considerations having driven most botanical recordmaking for the last century).
Despite this, they are of interest as indicators of the cryptic diversity of our built environment, and of the rearrangements of species and ecological relationships that continue to stem from our aggregated activity.