Pteris - Pteridaceae

Pteris vittata L.

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Pteris diversifolia Sw.
Pteris costata Bory ex Willd.
Pteris longifolia sensu Sim

Common name


Rhizome prostrate to suberect, short, up to 8 mm in diameter; rhizome scales linear to lanceolate with a long hair-tip, pale brown, up to 7 mm long, entire. Fronds tufted or closely spaced, arching, herbaceous to slightly coriaceous. Stipe up to 20 cm long but varying in length, pale brown, glabrous with age and with scales similar to the rhizome near the base. Lamina up to 1.1 × 0.4 m, oblong-lanceolate in outline, pinnate, middle pinnae the longest and basal pinnae gradually reducing in size. Pinnae 20-40, opposite to alternate, shortly stalked, linear in outline, apex gradually tapering to a point, base cordate or rounded, margins minutely toothed; veins free; glabrous on both surfaces; costae prominent below. Rhachis glabrous, pale brown. Sori linear, continuous, marginal; indusia entire, membranous.


P. vittata is pinnate, unlike the other species of Pteris.


vitta: narrow headband worn during sacrificial rites; alluding to the narrow linear pinnae


In permanently wet places in more arid regions.

Distribution worldwide

Widespread in Africa, also Spain, Yemen, Comoro & Mascarene Islands, Madagascar, tropical Asia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and Polynesia.

Distribution in Africa

Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Dem. Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Morocco and Western Sahara, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania , Tunesia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 158 - 160. (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 316 - 317. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 235 - 236. (Includes a picture).
  • Kornas, J. (1979) Distribution and ecology of the Pteridophytes in Zambia. Polska Akademia Nauk Wydzial II Nauk Biologicznych. Page 71.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 80. (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 176 - 177.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta. Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Pages 115 - 116.