Staghorn Fern Platycerium bifurcatum

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
common staghorn fern


The plant commonly known as the Staghorn Fern is a distinctive and ornamental fern with an unusual growth pattern. The foliage of the Staghorn Fern is characterized by two types of fronds. The sterile fronds are flat, rounded, and resemble a shield. These fronds often overlap and cover the base of the plant, which can give the appearance of a nest or a collection of shields. They are generally brownish in color and serve to protect the roots and help in collecting water and nutrients. The fertile fronds are what truly make the Staghorn Fern stand out. They are long, antler-like, and bifurcated, which means they split and have a branching pattern similar to deer antlers. These fronds emerge from the central rosette and can grow in an outward, often pendulous manner. They are typically green, with a soft and somewhat leathery texture. The fertile fronds are where spores are produced, which is how the fern reproduces. Over time, the antler-like fronds form an impressive display that can add a dramatic element to any space where the plant is displayed. This epiphytic plant commonly grows attached to tree trunks or branches in its natural habitat, but it can also thrive mounted on a board or grown in a hanging basket when cultivated indoors. The overall shape of the Staghorn Fern is uniquely layered due to the interplay of the shield and antler-like fronds, creating a visually interesting profile from any angle. Its appearance is reminiscent of some varieties of deer or elk with full-grown, branching antlers, a quality that is responsible for its common name and much of its popularity.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Staghorn Fern, Elkhorn Fern, Antelope Ears.

    • Common names

      Platycerium alcicorne, Platycerium alcornia, Platycerium willinckii, Alcicornium bifurcatum, Platycerium grande.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The Staghorn fern is generally considered non-toxic to humans. There are no known toxic effects from ingesting this plant. However, as with any plant material, individual allergies and sensitivities can cause adverse reactions, so it is still not advisable to consume it.

    • To pets

      The Staghorn fern is not toxic to pets. It should not cause any harm if pets ingest a small amount of this fern. However, consumption of any plant material may cause mild stomach upset in some animals, so it is best to keep it out of reach if your pet is known to chew on houseplants.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Spread

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Aesthetic Appeal: The Staghorn Fern adds a unique and exotic touch to any indoor or outdoor space with its distinct antler-shaped fronds.
    • Low Maintenance: This plant is relatively easy to care for, requiring minimal watering and no soil, as it's an epiphyte.
    • Vertical Gardening: It offers an excellent option for vertical gardens due to its ability to grow on surfaces like tree trunks or hanging mounts.
    • Natural Humidifier: By releasing moisture into the air through transpiration, the Staghorn Fern can help in maintaining humidity levels in the home.
    • Thermal Insulation: When grown on walls, its dense growth can provide a layer of insulation, potentially helping with temperature regulation.
    • Wildlife Support: In its natural habitat, the Staghorn Fern can provide shelter and nesting opportunities for various small animals and insects.
    • Educational Interest: This fern can be a fascinating subject for botanical study due to its unique life cycle and growth habits.
    • Conversation Starter: Its striking appearance can spark conversations, making it a centerpiece in home decor and design.
    • Cultural Significance: In some cultures, the Staghorn Fern is a symbol of longevity and can be found in various artistic depictions and traditional practices.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • As a craft material - The unique shape of the staghorn fern's fronds make them an interesting material for use in arts and crafts, particularly in creating naturalistic designs.
    • As a mounting surface for other plants - Due to the staghorn fern's epiphytic nature, it can serve as a host for other small epiphytes or mosses, creating a living arrangement.
    • As feed for some animals - In certain regions, the staghorn fern may be used as fodder for particular herbivores, though this is not a common practice.
    • In biophilic design - Staghorn ferns can be incorporated into architectural or interior designs that aim to connect occupants more closely to nature.
    • As educational tools - These plants can be used in schools or educational programs to teach about epiphytic plants and their ecosystems.
    • As photography subjects - The peculiar and picturesque quality of staghorn ferns makes them excellent subjects for botanical photography.
    • In fashion and textile designs - The pattern and form of staghorn ferns can inspire designs and motifs used in the fashion industry, especially for prints.
    • As indicator species - Staghorn ferns might be used by ecologists as indicator species for certain habitat conditions, due to their sensitivity to environmental changes.
    • In ceremonial garb - In some cultures, parts of the staghorn fern may be used in traditional costumes or ceremonial attire as a symbol of connection with nature.
    • As natural packaging material - The fronds of larger staghorn ferns could potentially be utilized as a sustainable, biodegradable packaging material for wrapping delicate items.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Staghorn Fern is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Staghorn Fern is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: Staghorn ferns often grow in difficult conditions on other trees and rocks, symbolizing the ability to thrive in challenging environments.
    • Uniqueness: The unusual shape and growth pattern of the staghorn fern signifies individuality and the beauty of being different.
    • Symbiosis: Since staghorn ferns are epiphytic, they symbolize interdependence and mutual support, growing in harmony with their host plants.
    • Protection: The staghorn fern’s shield fronds that cover the roots protect them from harm, representing safeguarding and security.
    • Longevity: These plants can live for many years, making them emblems of longevity and endurance.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to Summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    The Staghorn Fern should be watered thoroughly when the surface of its growing medium feels dry, which typically means once a week, but this can vary depending on the humidity and temperature of the environment. Hold the plant under lukewarm water, allowing the water to run through the soil for a minute, ensuring it's evenly moistened. During the growing season, water approximately 8 ounces per week, but reduce watering in the winter months when the plant's growth slows down. Make sure the plant has proper drainage to prevent root rot from excessive water retention.

  • sunLight

    Staghorn Ferns prefer bright, indirect light, so place your plant near a window where it can receive filtered sunlight; direct sunlight can scorch its leaves. An east- or north-facing window usually provides the ideal lighting conditions. If the indoor lighting is low, artificial grow lights can supplement the Staghorn Fern's light needs.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Staghorn Ferns thrive in warm conditions with temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They should not be exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, as this can harm the plant. It's important to keep these ferns away from cold drafts and extreme temperature fluctuations for best growth.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning a Staghorn Fern is important to remove dead or dying fronds and to maintain its attractive shape. Prune sparingly, only when necessary, since the plant's shield fronds serve as a nutrient source even when brown. The best time for pruning is in spring or early summer, using clean, sharp scissors to cut close to the base of the unwanted frond.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    The Staghorn Fern thrives in a well-draining soil mix comprising peat, perlite, and pine bark. A pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal for its growth.

  • plantRepotting

    Staghorn Ferns should be repotted every 2 to 3 years to prevent overcrowding and to replenish nutrients in the soil.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Staghorn Ferns prefer high humidity levels, ideally between 60% to 80%, to mimic their natural rainforest habitat.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Mount on wood/bark or in a basket with airy mix; bright, indirect light.

    • Outdoor

      Hang on trees or mount on wood in shaded areas with good air circulation.

    • Hardiness zone

      9-12 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    The staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) begins its life cycle as a spore, which germinates on a suitable surface to form a tiny, heart-shaped gametophyte. This haploid gametophyte houses the reproductive organs, which, upon maturation, facilitate fertilization and give rise to a diploid sporophyte—the main plant body. The staghorn fern then develops two types of fronds: sterile base fronds that turn brown and form a humus-collecting basket supporting the plant, and fertile fronds that grow outward and upward, resembling the horns of a stag, where spores are produced on their undersides. As the fronds mature, the spores are released back into the environment to start the cycle anew. Throughout its life, the staghorn fern continues to grow, periodically producing new fronds to replace old ones that die off. Being an epiphyte, its life stages are heavily dependent on its ability to anchor to other plants or structures and to gather sufficient nutrients and water from its unique, non-soil growing environment.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to Summer

    • The most popular method of propagating the Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) involves its spores, which are generally found on the underside of mature fronds. These spore patches, or sori, turn brown when they are ripe, usually in the warmer months which is the best time for propagation. To propagate, the spores are carefully collected and then sown onto a surface of moist peat or sterilized soil. They require a warm environment (approximately 70-80°F or 21-27°C) and must be kept out of direct sunlight but in a bright location. It can take several weeks to months for the spores to germinate and develop into tiny plants, which can then be carefully transplanted once they have grown large enough to handle. This method requires patience and careful attention to moisture and temperature to successfully produce new Staghorn fern plants.