Polystichum - Dryopteridaceae

Polystichum zambesiacum Schelpe

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Common name


Rhizome shortly creeping to suberect, up to 25 mm in diameter; rhizome scales up to 20 mm long, margin entire, reddish-brown, narrowly lanceolate, tapering to a point. Fronds closely tufted, arching, herbaceous, drying almost black on ventral side, dull green on dorsal side. Stipe up to 65 cm long, pale brown but darker near the base; set towards the base with dark scales with pale margins, up to 10 mm long. Lamina ovate to broadly lanceolate in outline, terminal segment long and narrow, 2-pinnate to 3-pinnatifid, with basal pair of pinnae somewhat reduced and deflexed, up to 90 × 50 cm. Pinnae narrowly lanceolate, tapering to a point. Pinnules variable, narrowly oblong to narrowly lanceolate in outline, basal acroscopic lobe enlarged and sometimes almost free; margins entire, shallowly lobed or deeply pinnatifid into crenate-serrate blunt lobes; both surfaces glabrous. Rhachis with scattered scales similar to those on the stipe but smaller. Sori round, c. 0.75 mm in diameter; indusia very small, shed soon after maturity.


This species does not have aristate pinnule margins, the rhachis has hair-like scales and the rhizome is short suberect.


zambesiacum: of the Zambesia region; referring to the Flora Zambesiaca area, type specimen found in Zimbabwe.


In high altitude evergreen, montane mist forest, in shade on forest floor, along forest edge and streams.

Distribution worldwide

See African distribution.

Distribution in Africa

Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania , Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Pages 310 - 312. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Page 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 139.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 130.
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Page 226. (Includes a picture).