Frost has fern growers worried in Volusia County


Work is under way to protect a $100 million crop of plants from freezing.

Volusia County is the leading producer of ferns in Florida, which are vulnerable to the cold.

Fern growers began protecting their crops Friday by simply keeping the plants insulated, but it's a lot of hard work.

Bill Puckett loves his ferns. They make up his family's business that once belonged to his grandparents. But he'll be working another cold night keeping his ferns and the business alive.

"We've invested a lot of money to do this and I don't want to lose it," Puckett said. "I want to do whatever I can to save it."

The 70-acre farm in Barberville is one of Puckett's three farms. To protect his investment, Puckett said he and his workers will be awake all night watching for freezing temperatures.

"We'll have one man at each one of those locations. He will keep patrolling prior to the extreme cold," said Puckett.

When the cold hits, the first line of defense is a material called ceran. The screen-like material helps keep the freezing temperatures from seeping in. Without it, the cold air would make its way into the ferns and it would cause damage in a matter of seconds.

Puckett said the ceran creates an igloo effect when it gets sprayed with water using sprinklers and pumps.

"If there's an engine that shuts down, if you don't get that engine back going very quickly, you lose that whole crop," said Puckett.

It's hard to determine how much a loss would cost, but Puckett said it can range from thousands of dollars to millions.

Some of these ferns, as long as they make it, will be packed up and shipped off to wholesellers who sell them to florists.