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Treating Fern Spores with Bleach

Geoff Simmons

The use of sodium hypochlorite solution to reduce or eliminate microbial contamination of fern spores is often recommended.

The question of whether the use of such substances has any effect, especially undesirable results, on the prothalli has been raised particularly for research on prothalli. Therefore it is interesting that an article on the subject (American Fern Journal 88:2:81 -1998) concludes that "We thus recommend that surface sterilization be avoided unless it is required to prevent contamination".

Although the authors (R. Hamilton and C. Chaffin) were only dealing with spores of one fern species, their results suggest a word of caution. There is an additional aspect in that use of bleach further complicates growing ferns from spores and more work for amateurs operating in the ordinary garden situation.

Selection of clean fronds, collection of spores in a clean environment away from contaminated areas such as shade-houses is desirable. Even after a working life as a microbiologist, I must say that I have never used bleach on spores - perhaps results may have been different if I had, but on the other hand I have been quite satisfied with my attempts at growing ferns from spores and have never considered the extra work involved in the use of bleach is warranted.

The precise source of this article is not known other than it is from a newsletter of one of the Society's District Groups.

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Australian Plants online - 2006
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants