Fern Fiber

Fernando Rivadavia Lopes (ferndriv@usp.br)
Wed, 23 Aug 1995 23:15:24 -0500 (CDT)

A couple of weeks ago there were a few discussions on the use of
fern fiber. This is extensively used here in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the
price has been going up a lot in the past few years, since it's not as
easy to find close to the city as it used to be. The cries against the
extraction of tree ferns from the rainforests on the neighboring coastal
highlands are still very few and the practice continues, though supposedly
prohibited by law.
The best way to go would be to begin boycotting the stuff, but
the only problem is that there really isn't much of an alternative here
so far! Peat moss simply can not be found for sale anywhere in this
country. I've heard of coconut fiber as a good substitute, but nobody
markets the stuff and who's gonna spend hours chopping up whole coconuts
themselves? Vermiculite is something I've seen, but have not really found
for sale. I have absolutely no idea what perlite is, and it simply seems
to be inexistant here, like peat.
Lately I've begun experimenting with those common mosses which
look like tiny, thin pine trees. These are abundant on the coastal
ranges near Sao Paulo and they often get very long, up to around 20cm or
more, due to the high humidity. They seem to be working well and I feel
that at least this plant can replace itself quickly in nature, like the
Sphagnum moss I sometimes collect in the same area. I find both of these
growing abundantly by trains tracks at a place called Paranapiacaba,
where I also find D.villosa, D.communis, and U.reniformis (also near
train tracks).
I'd like to hear suggestions for other possible substitutes for
fern fiber. I use very little, but always feel a bit of guilt when I do.
Also, I've gotta have something to suggest to commercial plant growers
(orchids, CPs, bromeliads, etc.) which they can use as a substitute for
the large amounts of fern fiber they employ. In this case, the pine-like
mosses wouldn't be enough.

Fernando Rivadavia
Sao Paulo, Brazil