I have been distracted again. Sorry. I will keep my promise to write about the ripple effect of the beauty buzz, but first I have a discovery to share with you. Actually, I did not make the discovery myself but one of my bushwalking friends, Cecilia Goon, deserves the credit.
And this is it –
– not the Pouched Coral-fern (Gleichenia dicarpa) itself, but the hexagon formed by its branching fronds. As I said in my last post, the hexagon is one of Nature’s most structurally efficient and aesthetically pleasing shapes.
For the Pouched Coral-fern to produce this shape, each pair of new fronds has to form an angle of 120 degrees. As you can see, the plants manage this with amazing, if not quite perfect, precision.
I have not found an explanation for why coral ferns grow this way but I noticed that when you look down on the leaves, you can see that each hexagonal array provides partial shelter for the layers below. The result is a protective canopy – a bit like a rainforest canopy, but with an important difference. The vertical spaces between the layers allow air and moisture to circulate.
The Pouched Coral-fern grows in sheltered, well-watered areas. The specimens I was looking at were growing where there was a lot of seeping water. I suspect that the plant has evolved to form a natural umbrella (it is sometimes called the Umbrella Fern) in order to preserve moisture around its roots. As the plants can grow to 4 metres in height, a dense patch of them forms a kind of forest with its own humid microclimate. By preserving soil moisture in this way, the clever fern maintains favourable growing conditions during dry times.
Ringtail possums love to use coral-fern to make their drays or nests in the forks of trees. They somehow know that the hexagonally arrayed leaves bind together to make a particularly strong and dense structure. Even these cute little marsupials have discovered a way of incorporating hexagons into architecture just as bees (in their honeycomb) and humans have.