Fran, the Difficult Fern: Lessons in Community Horticulture

I confess:I kill plants.Not intentionally, of course.I mean well.But if it were a prosecutable offense, I’d probably land somewhere between involuntary plantslaughter and negligent planticide.

So, imagine my concern when a patient asked last summer if she could bring her dying fern, Fran, to the clinic in hopes that she might get more light next to our windows than she was getting in the patient’s home.Before I had even seen the plant I had convinced myself (and told the patient) that we probably didn’t have room (we had plenty of room).I shared the request with my business partner who doesn’t share my fear of dying plants.  She said it would be fine to welcome Fran and despite my resistance, Fran was invited to recuperate at our clinic.

Fran arrived in quite desperate shape, worse than I even imagined.She was basically a shell of her former self—a dead-looking root-ball 8 inches in diameter and 3 sad, browning fronds with missing leaves drooping over the side of the pot.What hope was there for this emaciated fern?And why would we want such a pathetic plant in our clinic?

A few weeks after Fran arrived, she sprouted a tiny baby frond that rolled out to reach the light coming in the window.A few weeks later there was another.I still had my doubts but found myself rooting for her recovery (pun inevitable).

Today I looked over at Fran.She is beginning to really thrive.I counted 18 fronds, all of them green and healthy, some of them quite large.She is beginning to take on the shape one might expect of a fern, round and full…happy.

Now, I don’t know how Fran could have possibly made the miraculous return to life that we have witnessed.It certainly wasn’t because of my efforts or initial attitude.In fact, she came back quite in spite of me.It could be because my business partner and our receptionists lovingly cared for her despite her scary first impression and unsightly appearance.It could be because her new home is in our treatment room and she was able to soak in all the peaceful, healing qi brought forth by our patients.Or it could that life is more resilient than I think it is and Fran was inspired to prove me wrong.

Whatever the inspiration behind Fran’s transformation, I am so glad she sings to our patients everyday.Our clinic would not be the same without her healing vibrations.  And the same can be said for many of my patients who arrive with intimidating symptoms and frustrated/irritable/needy presentations.   I can’t really explain how they change or why.  But they do and their presence is a vital contribution to our community.

Author: NancyS

I've been a member of POCA since the early CAN days. My first CA training was in Oct. 2006 and I've been hooked ever since. In 2010, I started a CA clinic in Salem, Oregon. We've grown to about 150 visits per week. I'm moving to San Luis Obispo this summer (2012) for my partner's job and to be near family. I'm not eligible for licensure in California so my acupunk days are limited and will be on hold for a while. But I plan to stick around POCA.

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  1. Pun inevitable!  great

    Pun inevitable!  great story i love my clinc plants and fish- my little helpers.


    Nick Kurtz

    Ad Astra Acu

    Lawrence, CANsas

  2. Lovely post

    And it also reminded me of this oldie but goodie by Jessica.

    Having lived in big cities most of my life, I am also not great at keeping plants alive. We have a bunch of plants in the clinic, and much like us humans, they go through their stages of feeling well and then not so well. One of our front deskers loves plants and has basically taken over the plant care and established a mini “plant hospital” on our tiny back porch. Periodically she gives us reports on which plant is getting better, which one is needing to go out to the porch and which one she took home for some extra intensive care. It is a blessing to have someone who pays consistent loving attention to the green beings in our community.


  3. so true…

    I occasionally have fits of worry that I’m not enough to take care of the clinic plants.  It seems like they always need transplanting.  Recently a new one showed up unannounced, I have *no freaking idea* what kind it is, and I’m terrified I will kill it.  And yet I am still looking forward to having my own clinic later this year with tons of plants and fish tanks! 

  4. Love it!

    A patient recently asked me if I do acupuncture on plants.  I googled it and found that there is someone somewhere who does actually needle plants (although I think they are larger than most ferns).  I told her I would be willing to try it if she would sign a “hold harmless ageement”, but maybe that didn’t express enough confidence.  She didn’t bring it in…yet.