Pneumatopteris - Thelypteridaceae

Pneumatopteris unita (Kunze) Holttum

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Thelypteris madagascariensis (Fée) Schelpe
Polypodium unitum (Kunze) Hook.
Goniopteris patens Fée
Dryopteris madagascariensis (Fée) C.Chr.
Gymnogramma unita Kunze
Goniopteris madagascariensis Fée
Dryopteris albidipilosa R. Bonap.
Cyclosorus patens (Fée) Copel.
Dryopteris silvatica (Pappe & Rawson) C.Chr. subsp. amplectens C.Chr.

Common name


Rhizome erect to suberect. Fronds monomorphic, tufted, arching, proliferous on the rhachis near the apex, herbaceous, covered with mucilage when young and coiled. Stipe up to 75 cm long, pale brown, hairless, with a swollen aerophore at the base. Lamina pinnate, ovate-lanceolate to linear-oblong in outline, up to 0.6-1.8 × 0.2-0.5 m, apex with terminal pinna narrowly deltoid, lobed, lower pinnae hardly reduced in size, somewhat deflexed, auricled; pinnae narrowly oblong, 11.5-28 x 1.5-3.3 cm, sessile, base truncate, apex long and abruptly tapering to a point, margin shallowly incised into broadly oblong, rounded, entire lobes with 4-5 pairs of veins meeting below the sinus; undersurface sparsely set with short white hairs on costae, costules and veins, upper surface with sporadic pale hairs; rhachis pale brown, hairless, kinked where the gemmae emerge. Sori round, small, situated close to the costules in the basal half of each lobe; exindusiate.


Resembles Ampelopteris prolifera which has a several gemmae positioned along the rhachis, a shortly creeping rhizome and 5-7 pairs of veins meeting below the sinus; this species is not found in evergreen forest.
Pneumatopteris unita look for: a single gemmae, erect rhizome, 4-5 pairs of veins anostomosing.


unita: united; refers to the several pairs of veins which meet (anostomose)below the sinus between adjacent pinna lobes.


Seepage zones along streams or moist floors in shade in high-rainfall, evergreen forest.

Distribution worldwide

Distribution in Africa

Burundi, Cameroon, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania , Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 262. As Thelypteris madagascariensis (Includes a picture).
  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 680 - 681. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 399 - 400. (Includes a picture).
  • Kornas, J. (1979) Distribution and ecology of the Pteridophytes in Zambia. Polska Akademia Nauk Wydzial II Nauk Biologicznych. Page 92. As Thelypteris madagascariensis
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 118. (Includes a picture).
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Pages 208 - 209.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Pages 196 - 197. As Thelypteris madagascariensis (Includes a picture).
  • Tardieu-Blot, M.-L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.3.Flore du Cameroun, Page 250. (Includes a picture).
  • Verdcourt, B (2006) Thelypteridaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 32 - 34. (Includes a picture).