The genus of the staghorn fern, Platycerium, includes 15 species worldwide,
all of which are cultivated here in the Botanic Garden of Munich. They have
developed different types of fronds as adaption to conditions in the canopy
of tropical forests. One type of fronds is shield-shaped with its basis closely
attached to the trunk of the host tree. In some species, the top margins of
these fronds are bended outwards, forming a nest-like opening. The shield-like
fronds design a kind of "flower-pot", in which humus and moisture is accumulated
and into which the roots of Platycerium are growing.
The other type of fronds resembles dangling antlers. They bear the sporangia grouped in socalled sori, in which the dust-like spores of the fern are produced. The sori you may recognize as brownish fields on the underside of the fronds. These patches differ from one species of Platycerium to another: in some they are found only at the tips of the fronds, in others near the base, while in others they are arranged in separate hoods.
At first staghorn ferns will probably all look alike to you. But if you look closely at the specimens hanging above you, you’ll notice after a short while that you can tell different species apart from the location and type of their sori.