Manaw, Dapo or Bird’s Nest Ferns


I love gardens, but I am certain I have a black thumb. So while I appreciate the green, I rarely get close to the plants and handle them myself. That doesn’t stop the occasional acquisitive obsession, of which I have two at the moment, these Bird’s Nest Ferns and my phalaenopsis or butterfly orchids.


A couple of years ago, I stopped two ambulant vendors on a Cebu side street to ask how much their beautiful and lush mana or bird’s nest fern cost. They started off at PHP300 but very quickly dropped their price to say PHP100 or so. I bought the four they were carrying, but had them delivered to our office in Cebu. I also told them that if they had more, I would buy the “lot”… Fast forward a week later and suffice it to say I was the owner of some 30+ ferns, albeit still babies in size. We planted several of them on trees (most of which surprisingly did not thrive due to an arid and hot summer that followed) and some were “planted” in pots.


I continued to buy every now and then, and after two years, it seems we have some 60-70 ferns mostly thriving in the yard, under partial shade, and very frequently watered (though the rains of the past three months are really the reason they are at their peak of ebullience).


There is something obsessive about observing rows and rows of ferns and I would like to grow the “collection” to some 200 plants if we have enough space and my saki’s continue to bring baby ferns along for the reasonable price of PHP100-150 a piece.


At the FTI market in Taguig the other week, a vendor had a particularly lush specimen but was asking a whopping PHP5,000 for the plant, I was totally stunned! I have several that are almost the same size, and with less than 1.5 years of care from PHP100, that’s a better return than Makati real estate! :)


These four ferns in the two photos above are just outside our office doors. They are particularly happy campers, because they get a daily supply of water that drips downs from our air conditioners! Constant moisture, partial shade and daily morning salutations means they look like kings/queens of the garden.


The ones we placed on trees continue to struggle, perhaps because of their placement or the type of tree. I have the opposite experience in Manila, were several ferns attached to trees have grown to ginormous proportions in recent years.


Not sure what we will do with all of these ferns eventually, but I kind of like the idea of a corner of the garden having some 100-150 lush ferns arranged at different levels… Any ideas? :)


15 Responses

  1. Hi MM, looks like you have a jungle out there. I meant the last picture. I liked the rows of ferns on the ground though. No, I don’t have any inkling what to do with them.

  2. The last two pix would be a close approximation of how they grow in the wild. Even closer is when they grow where the spores usually get lodged on the three, in its crotch where they can thrive even luxuriantly.

    Btw, dapo is the Tagalog word for perch or how flying insects and birds alight on a tree.

  3. 1. Gosh, you pay for them? Where I am, they pop up everywhere to the point I treat them as a weed.
    2. The Taiwanese eat the very youngest shoots as a stir-fry…..learnt, I guess, from the aboriginals.

  4. Khew, they eat the youngest shoots in Batanes as well, apparently. Which isn’t too far from Taiwan… Acccck, I can’t wait for the spores to start attaching themselves to trees around the property!

  5. You can use the potted ones as center pieces in your restaurants. Or you can rent them out to staging companies.

  6. My favorite – – garden talk :) Those are simply beautiful! Across our home is a park with wooded area – – at the edge of a Bayou so we have a spectacular waterview too.

  7. My dad became obsessed with these ferns, too, a few years ago. I remember that vendors at a local garden show would string three small ferns together vertically with wire (like a kebab) then hang them on a long bamboo pole so that it looks like you have a curtain of ferns. But I don’t think you could do that when they’re large already unless you have really strong wire, perhaps? My dad tried to stick the large ones to the tree growing in front of our house. I’m not sure though if they’re still alive right now. I’ll check them out when I go home to the province.

  8. My Mom and Pop used to grow so many of them in my childhood home.
    I agree with a multi-level grouping. My parents had several under our santol trees in different heights (in hanging pots) and they were beautiful. Add some lights and tables and it can totally serve as an outdoor cafe. :)

  9. Pakpak Lawin , dapo or pasdak…There are two types the ”babae”-which has broader and darker leaves and bears the spores and the ”lalake” with erect, more slender paler leaves conmpared to female pakpak lawin. Lots of these in banahaw area growing on limbs of trees and coconut trunks.

  10. we have several of them at the house too. They always drive me out of the house and into a hotel for a couple of weeks in summer. The spores come flying at an incredible amount (the underSides of the leaves are fuzzy with them) that I start having asthma attacks when I come within 2 feet of our gate.



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