Planting a seed: How Conserving an Orchid Helped Protect Governor Laffan’s Ferns

Published: 09 March 2023
Last edited: 09 March 2023
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Governor Laffan’s fern (Diplazium laffanianum) are native to Bermuda, and due to habitat destruction and invasive species, they hadn’t been seen in the wild since 1905.


Efforts to produce offspring from the remaining plants were unsuccessful, so two tiny fertile fronds travelled from the Bermuda Botanical Garden to the Plant Lab of the Omaha Zoo for propagation. Successfully, the plant lab directed by Marge From coaxed the spores to germinate. Not only does the species flourish in the Omaha Zoo’s lab, but From’s team has flown thousands of plants back to Bermuda.


The lab’s success is a result of the hard work of the team, but the vision for a plant lab dedicated entirely to conservation had been sparked years earlier at a CPSG workshop for an endangered orchid. Thanks to the workshop, the Omaha Zoo jumped into plant and habitat conserva­tion in a big way, that, among other things, inspired the protocols used on the Governor Laffan’s ferns successful reproduction.


Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Science and research
Species management
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Genetic Conservation
Species Monitoring and Research
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons




As of 2019, 16 reintroduced sub-populations of Governor Laffan’s ferns thrive in two protected areas, in spite of both devastating drought and hurricanes that year, and hundreds of young plants are getting ready for reintroduction in 2020.


What about the fate of the western prairie fringed orchid, for which the catalytic CPSG workshop was convened in the first place? Orchids from the lab are no longer being introduced into the wild, but the orchids continue to appear in the wild.


In the lab, efforts continue to preserve orchid seeds for long-term conservation efforts. Results are promising, with the seeds growing better than expected after being frozen and stored.


Conservation progress for the two species can be traced back to a common factor, according to From: “Many of the protocols developed for the orchid as a result of recommendations from the workshop were eventually used in conservation of the Governor Laffan’s fern. All of this has come about, in large part, because of the CPSG workshop.”

Contributed by

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Mina Adabag IUCN SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group