Polystichum - Dryopteridaceae

Polystichum luctuosum (Kunze) T. Moore

Photo: P. Ballings
South Africa

Photo: P. Ballings
South Africa

Photo: P. Ballings
South Africa

Photo: P. Ballings
South Africa

Photo: P. Ballings
South Africa






Aspidium luctuosum Kunze
Polystichum lobatum (Huds.) Bastard var. luctuosum (Kunze) H.Christ

Common name


Rhizome suberect; rhizome scales up to 15 × 2 mm, margin entire, shiny, dark brown, narrowly lanceolate. Fronds tufted, arching, firmly herbaceous to coriaceous. Stipe up to 30 cm long, pale to mid-brown, with dark brown to almost black scales of two kinds. Lamina lanceolate to narrowly ovate in outline, 2-pinnate to 2-pinnatifid, with basal pinnae not or only slightly reduced, up to 45 × 19 cm. Pinnae 12-15 pairs, shortly petiolate, alternate, narrowly oblong-lanceolate, somewhat falcate, pinnate to pinnatifid. Pinnules ovate to oblong, obtuse, margins serrate-aristate, base unequally cuneate, upper surface subglabrous, lower surface set with scattered hair-like scales; acroscopic basal pinnule enlarged, parallel to the rhachis. Rhachis pale brown with black hairlike scales. Sori small, round, c.1 mm in diameter; indusia round, entire, membranous, dark brown with pale margins.


This fern has dark scales on the stipe and rhachis, the fronds are compact and have a leathery texture.


luctuosum: sorrowful, mourning; hinting at the blackened appearance of the fronds due to the black scales on the stipe and rhachis.


In dark shady ravines, along streams in evergreen or semi-deciduous forest, in riverine forest; often on dolomitic limestones.

Distribution worldwide

Southern Africa, Madagascar, Réunion.

Distribution in Africa

Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 317 - 318. (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 466 - 467. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 444 - 445. (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. Page 137.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 129.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Page 228. (Includes a picture).