The Victorian Fashionable Fascination with Ferns: A Steampunk Perspective

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Charles Sillem Lidderdale, 'The Fern Gatherer', circa 1877 Charles Sillem Lidderdale, ‘The Fern Gatherer’, circa 1877

The name of Pteridomania was coined by Charles Kingsley, who wrote: “Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing ‘Pteridomania’ and are collecting and buying ferns…and wrangling over inpronouncable names of species, (which seem to be different with every new fern that they buy), till the Pteridomania seems to you something of a bore.”

Fern gatherers - Victorian image from the collection of the National Library of Australia, Canberra Fern gatherers – Victorian image from the collection of the National Library of Australia, Canberra

The Victorians had their fads, just like our modern Western society. In a previous blog post, I discussed their obsession with all things Egyptian: Egyptomania. Another of their passing passions was for collecting ferns: Pteridomania. This word for fern mania derives from the classification term, Pteridophyta, which refers to vascular plants that reproduce via spores rather than seeds. (The more correct taxonomic term for ferns is Monilophytes.) The Victorians became so…

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