Platycerium sporophytes (adult plants) have tufted roots growing from a short rhizome that bears two types of fronds, basal and fertile fronds. Basal fronds are sterile, shield or kidney shaped and laminate against the tree and protect the fern's roots from damage and desiccation. In some Platycerium species the top margin of these fronds forms an open crown of lobes and thereby catches falling forest litter and water.
Fertile fronds bear spores on their undersurface, are dichotomous or antler shaped and jut out or hang from the rhizome. The spores are born in sporangia clustered in large sori that are usually positioned on the lobes or at the sinus between frond lobes.
Some species of Platycerium are solitary having only one rhizome. Other species form colonies when their rhizomes branch or when new rhizomes are formed from root tips. If the conditions are right the spores will germinate naturally on surrounding trees. Platycerium gametophytes are a small heart shaped thallus.
Staghorns can be propagated by spores produced on the underside of the fertile fronds. Colonial Platycerium can also be vegetatively propagated by carefully dividing large healthy ones into smaller, separate plants. These new plants can then be attached to board mounts or be strapped to trees until they take to the tree themselves.
A mature staghorn can grow more than 1 metre (3.3 ft) wide. When positioned well, Platycerium species are able to add focal points, privacy, and a tropical look to gardens.