Sword fern

Sword fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia

Common Name:

Sword fern

Scientific Name:

Nephrolepis cordifolia


Alternative common names:

Tuber ladder fern, ladder sword fern, fishbone fern, erect sword fern.

Description:

The sword fern typically grows in woodland areas. Fronds tend to be dull green in shaded areas and lighter green or yellowish-green when growing in a sunny position. Both fertile and sterile fronds are pinnate and 7cm wide. Rhizomes are orange-brown to pale brown with linear scales having hair-like tips. Numerous spore containing structures are produced between the leaflet midvein and margin. 

Additional Information


Where does this species come from?

Northern Australia.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, and Limpopo. Category 3 in North West, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Free State. Sterile cultivars or hybrids are not listed.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape, North West, Northern Cape and Gauteng.

How does it spread?

Thousands of spores can be produced by one plant and these are dispersed by wind and water.

Why is it a problem?

It poses a threat to indigenous species because it spreads aggressively and is able to form dense stands, quickly displacing indigenous vegetation. As it is a true fern, it reproduces via spores.

What does it look like?

Leaves: The upright leaves have a brownish stalk up to 15cm long and are divided into numerous alternatively arranged narrow leaflets up to 6cm long. They have irregularly and often finely scalloped margins and are usually hairless. Their tips are relatively broad and somewhat rounded and their bases are usually somewhat overlapping and slightly lobed on one side. Fronds tend to be dull green in shaded areas and lighter green or yellowish-green when growing in a sunny position.

Fruit/seeds: Numerous brown, round to kidney-shaped spots are evident on the undersides of mature fronds. These are the reproductive structures of this species and contain the numerous spores.

Does the plant have any uses?

Cultivated for ornamental use.

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