Melpomene - Polypodiaceae

Melpomene flabelliformis (Poir.) A.R. Sm. & R.C. Moran

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Grammitis flabelliformis (Poir.) Morton
Grammitis rigescens (Bory ex Willd.) Lellinger
Xiphopteris flabelliformis (Poir.) Schelpe
Polypodium flabelliforme Poir.
Polypodium rigescens Willd.
Ctenopteris rigescens Willd. subsp. J.Sm.
Xiphopteris rigescens (Willd.) Alston
Polypodium moniliforme var. rigescens (Bory ex Willd.) Hook.

Common name


Rhizome widely creeping, sometimes branched, c. 2 mm thick; rhizome scales lanceolate, margin entire, up to 2 mm long, grey-brown. Fronds monomorphic, spaced 1-4 mm apart, erect, sub-coriaceous to coriaceous. Stipe up to 10 cm long, third to half the length of the lamina, light-brown to black, very narrowly winged, with minute, scattered, pale brown scales. Lamina deeply pinnatifid to pinnate to the midrib, up to 3-17(-33+) × 0.7-2.2 cm, narrowly linear-elliptic in outline, apex pointed to rounded, base truncate to decrescent; pinnae triangular to oblong in outline, apex rounded, margin entire, longest 3-10 x 2-5 mm, lower surface with small hairs or both surfaces glabrous; midrib black, venation obscure. Sori 1-6 per lobe, round, intramarginal; exindusiate, set with castaneous hair-like paraphyses.


Can be separated from other species by its large size, widely creeping rhizome and fronds which are incised almost to the midrib.


flabelliformis: fanshaped; unclear reference as the fronds are linear.


Mountain peaks, in moist montane forest and rock crevices, mossy rock surfaces in boulder scree and fissures in cliff faces, giant heath or Podocarpus/Hagenia forest to Hagenia woodland, afroalpine bush, bamboo zone, shaded.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Réunion.

Distribution in Africa

Cameroon, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania , Uganda, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Epiphytic, lithophytic.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 186. As Grammitis rigescens (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 574 - 575. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 298 - 299. As Xiphopteris flabelliformis (Includes a picture).
  • Parris, B.S. (2005) Grammitidaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 12 - 13. (Includes a picture).
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 107.
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Page 159.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Page 143. As Xiphopteris flabelliformis
  • Tardieu-Blot, M.-L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.3.Flore du Cameroun, Pages 327 - 328. (Includes a picture).