Blechnum tabulare

The common name for this species is ‘Mountain Blechnum’. The name Blechnum tabulare is a direct reference to Table Mountain in Cape Town; this is the site where the species is thought to have first been collected around 1770. Blechnum tabulare is widely distributed across Southern Africa from the southern-western Cape through south eastern Africa, to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zaire, Cameroon and Nigeria. Also on Madagascar, the Mascarene Islands and Tristan da Cunha. The species can be found growing in grasslands along streams, in lowland temperate forest, on hillsides and quite often on roadsides. Showing Blechnum tabulare is adaptable to different climates and vegetations.

Blechnum tabulare with multiple trunks

Blechnum tabulare like many of the Blechnum family is dimorphic. The sterile fronds are large oval, pinnate, and dark-green reaching 30-60cm (12-24in) in length. The fronds have a thick leathery look to them. The fertile fronds are narrower and erect. This fern produces a trunk which can grow up to 1m (3ft). Regional variations of the species habit would suggest that a reclassification and division of the species is needed. In some areas plants have a more weeping look and tend to develop a taller trunk. In other areas the fronds are more upright and the trunk is shorter. With Blechnum tabulare present across such a wide area I have little doubt that they are different species but further work would be required in this area.

Blechnum tabulare with short stout trunks forming

It is now illegal to harvest these ferns from the wild, however several batches were legally harvested around 2005 and some of the plants are still available commercially. More often that not you will now see Blechnum tabulare available as a young plant which is a more economical way of adding this species to your collection. I would be hesitant to put an exact hardiness figure on this plant due to the large amounts of money mature plants sell for and the regional variations which I have eluded to, make them a bit of an unknown quantity. Fern experts have given a figure of around -4°C (25°F) but I would treat this with caution over the first few growing seasons until the plant has established..