Osmunda - Osmundaceae

Osmunda regalis L.

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Hubbard






Osmunda capensis C.Presl
Osmunda regalis L. var. capensis (C.Presl) Milde
Osmunda schelpei A.E.Bobrov
Osmunda transvaalensis A.E.Bobrov

Common name

Royal fern


Rhizome erect to suberect, up to 30 cm tall, often becoming massive, covered with the persistent winged bases of the stipes, usually embedded in a mass of black fibrous roots. Fronds tufted, erect, with a rufous tomentum when young, glabrous at maturity, 60-200 × 30-45 cm. Stipe up to 30 cm long, pale green when fresh and straw coloured when dry, glabrous at maturity. Lamina up to 1 m, bipinnate and ovate in outline. Sterile pinnules oblong-lanceolate in outline, apex rounded, base asymmetrically truncate to broadly wedge-shaped, ± 8 x 2 cm, hairless on both surfaces at maturity, margin minutely serrate. Fertile pinnules reduced in size, ± 3 x 0.3 cm, borne in the apical portion situated on the end of the lamina and covered with sporangia.


Easy to recognize by its large size and characteristic fertile portion.


regalis: regal, royal; referring to the majestic growth of the plant or to King Osmund (Osmunda) of the South Saxons.


Along streams in woodland and forest with the rhizome continuously in water, swamps with Cyperaceae.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, temperate parts of Europe, Asia, America, Madagascar, Mascarene Islands.

Distribution in Africa

Algeria, Angola, Burkina Fasso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Morocco and Western Sahara, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania , Tunesia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 49 - 50. (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 142 - 143. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 169 - 170. (Includes a picture).
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 36. (Includes a picture).
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta. Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Pages 44 - 46. (Includes a picture).
  • Verdcourt, B. (1999) Osmundaceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 1 - 4. (Includes a picture).