New to me was the hart's tongue fern (Scolopendrium vulgare), which every English child knows and loves for the breadth and brilliancy of its thick, leathery, undivided leaf. The picture is a fair portrait, but fails to show its charming environment. The hart's tongue grows on roadside rocks and walls, on shady banks and in ravines and looks like a stranger from the tropics. It generally grows about a foot high, with leaves twelve inches long and one and a half to two inches wide. Few people know the extraordinary number of fantastic forms to which the hart's tongue has given rise in cultivation. A nursery firm at Sale, near Manchester, which issues the largest fern catalogue in the world (122 pages), offers sixty-two varieties of the hart's tongue, varying in height from six inches to two feet and cut and crested in many odd forms. But the original wild type is, of course, the most precious for the bog garden.
If there is anything in England that looks impossible to grow in America it is this same hart's tongue fern. Imagine, therefore, my astonishment on learning that it actually grows wild in the United States, and thrives as far north as Vermont! In this country it is a very rare plant, growing only on limestone rocks. Some of our botanists call it Phyllitis Scolopendrium. Two American nurserymen now offer the hart's tongue and I doubt not their stock has been propagated in the nursery. It would be scandalous to offer collected stock of so rare and precious a plant.