Agasthya 6.2 Fern Ball at the Fern House
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One late afternoon, hungry and weary, Johnson and I clambered down a tall Cullenia tree after enumerating epiphytic orchids. After a quick lunch our hunt for the next tree led us to cross the Palaquium stream which cuts across the 'Green Trail' leading to a forest bungalow called the 'Fern House'. As the name suggests, it is surrounded by various ferns including the tree fern. There, on the low bushes, a clump of ferns caught my attention whose fronds were rolled like a clenched fist. It took my mind to an observation made by noted Kannada author, Poornachandra Tejaswi, based on his encounter with such rolled up leaves on a hot summer afternoon in Charmadi Ghats, Hassan, Karnataka. Intrigued, he took it to his entomologist friend, who opened the roll to find eggs inside which later hatched into giraffe weevil Trachelophorus sp. so called due to the disproportionately long head. However, they had to wait two long years to finally see the actual rolling process; the adult achieved it by first cutting off the midrib which made the leaf wilt. Then they laid eggs in the tip and rolling it quickly, lets it drop to the leaf litter for the eggs to hatch.

Our neatly rolled fern frond was held together by some form of adhesive and as we opened one of them, we saw that the leaflets were folded inwards into a neat ball with the top most leaflet holding it all together. Inside the ball we saw a translucent spotted grub, probably of some beetle, about an inch or two long along with lots of tiny black pellets. On sensing danger the grub coiled up but once we finished shooting, it settled down and began to munch the leaves. For every inch of leaf munched, it defecated a pellet thus literally eating the ball inside out. We left the open ball on a fern hoping that the disturbed grub would survive.

After about three years, Shyamal, an entomologist and a friend, told me that it was in fact, a moth caterpillar. He informed that the eggs hatch on leaflets and the caterpillar rolls the leaves to pupate as a cocoon which would later metamorphose into a moth.

Reminiscing about the incident, I am in awe at the numerous ways the actors interact in the eternal drama of life.



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salagame

Volume 6,  Issue 2
      April 2012

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

Fern Ball at the Fern House
- Seshadri K S
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