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Governor Laffan’s Fern replanting hit by storm

A hurricane hindered efforts to return a native species of fern to Bermuda's wild areas.

Efforts to reintroduce the Governor Laffan's Fern, considered extinct in the wild, to various sites around the island had mixed results last year, after the island was hit by Hurricane Humberto. Alison Copeland, biodiversity officer at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said in the spring edition of the Envirotalk newsletter that the hurricane had killed several of the ferns.

She said: “The combination of salt on their fronds, and burial by dead fiddlewood and Surinam cherry leaves following the storm are probably what killed the ferns.

“At present, there are 16 immature Governor Laffan's Ferns surviving in the wild in Bermuda, including 15 from 2019 and one that was planted in 2015.”

Ms Copeland added: “Last year was our biggest planting effort yet.

“Between January and March, 27, immature Governor Laffan's Ferns were planted at three sites — the Bermuda Audubon Society's nature reserve at Sear's Cave and two caves in the Walsingham Trust's property.

“Survival was highest at Sear's Cave, with 11 of the 12 ferns planted there currently surviving. The ferns planted at Walsingham did not fare well during last September's Hurricane Humberto. None of the ferns planted at one of the caves survived, while only four survived at the second cave.”

Ms Copeland said Humberto caused several days of salt spray and little rain, which caused salt damage to plants across the island.

The Governor Laffan's Fern, named after Sir Robert Laffan, governor between 1877 until his death in 1882, was discovered in the Walsingham area of Hamilton Parish in 1880, but has not been seen in the wild since 1905.

But the species survived through potted plants. Several specimens were at the Botanical Gardens until 2001, when they were moved under glass at the Government's Tulo Valley Nursery in Pembroke.

However, 2003's Hurricane Fabian destroyed the greenhouse and two of the ferns.

A recovery effort was launched later that year with Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska.

Ms Copeland said efforts to reintroduce the species would continue, with more planting scheduled to take place this year.

She added: “Only after a few generations will its future truly look secure, so let's all cross our fingers for no hurricanes this year.”

Protected plant: an example of a Governor Laffan's Fern, which is presumed to be extinct in the wild

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Published April 23, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 23, 2020 at 8:31 am)

Governor Laffan’s Fern replanting hit by storm

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