Governor Laffan's Fern (Diplazium laffanianum)
Governor Laffan’s Fern is endemic to Bermuda and is critically endangered. This fern is named after Governor Sir Robert Laffan, who sent a living plant to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1880, from which this species was first described. Governor Laffan’s fern is relatively large with bright green leaves reaching up to 30 cm (12 inches).
According to Britton’s 1918 book Flora of Bermuda, this fern was found in cave mouths and rock crevices between Harrington Sound and Paynters Vale up until 1905. Britton describes seeing this very rare fern in the wild in the autumn of 1905, but in 1913 when he returned to a location known to have the fern it could not be found. At one time the fern had been relatively common in the Walsingham area, and two plants were taken to a private greenhouse in Hamilton. Britton notes that he studied these plants in 1914, but was unable to successfully raise young ferns from the spores.
Today Governor Laffan’s Fern remains critically endangered. It is considered extinct in the wild, as it has not been found growing in Bermuda since Britton’s 1905 observation more than 100 years ago.
In 2002 spores from this species were sent to the United States for propagation at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. A few ferns were returned to Bermuda in 2009, 2012 and 2014 and are housed at the government plant nursery at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Without this conservation action it is likely that this fern would have become extinct.
- Protected Species Information Sheet [PDF]
- Link to Omaha Zoo endangered plant research site: http://www.omahazoo.com/conservation/rare-plant-research/photos/
- Protected Species Recovery Plan for Bermuda Ferns (includes photos)
- IUCN Red List assessment of Gov. Laffan's Fern