I had a bird’s nest fern. It was unceremoniously hung – pot, wires and all – on an ornamental shrub outside of my house. You can say I threw it out.

Despite my neglect, it flourished and grew to be quite large. It looked like it was going to outgrow the claypot it had clung onto and I was certain its roots have become luxury condos for colonies of ants.

I decided that this BNF had to go, and knew just what to do with it.

The roots of bird’s nest ferns (genus, Asplenium) are tight, fibrous and hold quite a lot of moisture. So, why not use them for orchid media?

The gloriously green bird’s nest fern. It grew under full sun most of the time, and got its water only from the rain. OK, sometimes I hose it down.


Here’s its claypot. Lots of dead leaves at the base, which provided nutrients to the fern naturally. It was quite a mess, though.


One strong tug, and out it came.


With a pair of secateurs, I cut the root ball off.


Detached! Not as tough as I thought.


The root ball was trimmed into smaller pieces. These fibrous roots were going to be put to good use.


Ants! They scurried away carrying eggs (can’t really see in this picture, but trust me, it was a swarm).


What’s left of the mess. Although the top-half could be replanted, I’m sorry but I discarded this BNF.


And here you go – bird’s nest fern roots as orchid media!


Long lasting, moisture retaining, and light, they are great for my phalaenopsis under this current heatwave. I don’t use it exclusively, but mixed in with pieces of charcoal.


Bird’s nest ferns are so common here. I often find small young ferns pot-sharing with my orchids, having settled there from spores carried by the wind. They cling tightly to the broken bricks and, if left unchecked, can easily engulf the whole pot and orchid (but of course, one would have to be very stupidly oblivious to not notice this occurrence. It doesn’t happen overnight).

With this newfound use for BNFs, I’ve set my mind to starting anew with a small fern and work my way to the next harvest. I won’t discard the top this time.