Nephrolepidaceae - Sword ferns

Photo: BT. Wursten


Description of the family

Terrestrial, lithophytic or epiphytic plants. Rhizome short-creeping or erect, sometimes producing tubers, producing stolons that root and form shoots. Stipe not articulated; stipe and rhachis adaxially with a longitudinal groove. Fronds monomorphic, numerous, pinnate; pinnae articulated to the rhachis. Venation free, ending in a hydathode near the margin. Indumentum composed of peltate scales on the rhizome, axes and lamina surfaces, and 2-3 celled glandular hairs on the lamina. Sori round to oval or linear terminal on the veins, indusium kidney-shaped or linear, entire, opening towards the margin; homosporous.

Comment: Nephrolepis is sometimes placed within the family of the Davalliaceae or Oleandraceae, to which it is closely allied.

Worldwide: c. 30 species occurring throughout the warmer parts of the world, greatest number of species in south-east Asia (J.P. Roux, Swaziland ferns and fern allies)



  • Nephrolepis Schott


  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13: 1-222.