Arthropteris - Tectariaceae

Arthropteris orientalis (J.F.Gmel.) Posth.

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings






Arthropteris albopunctata (Bory ex Willd.) J. Smith
Polypodium orientale J.F.Gmel.
Nephrodium albopunctatum (Bory ex Willd.) Desv.
Aspidium thonningii Schumach.
Dryopteris orientalis (J.F.Gmel.) C.Chr.
Nephrodium wilsonii Baker
Dryopteris wilsonii (Baker) C.Chr.
Arthropteris pectinata (Forssk.) Kuhn

Common name

Msasa fern


Rhizome widely creeping, up to 3(-5) mm in diameter; rhizome scales broadly ovate to circular in outline, peltate, margins entire, up to 1.5 mm long, dark brown. Fronds monomorphic, spaced, erect, seldom arching, herbaceous to thinly coriaceous, scented. Stipe up to 26 cm long, articulated in upper half, pale matt brown, glabrous or with occasional pale brown scales, up to c. 1 mm long. Lamina deeply 2-pinnatifid, lanceolate-oblong in outline, apex tapering to a point, basal pinnae somewhat or not reduced, up to 11-40 × 5.5-17 cm; pinnae opposite to alternate, sessile, lanceolate to narrowly oblong in outline, base broadly cuneate, articulated, up to 9.5 × 1.8 cm; ultimate lobes oblong in outline, apex rounded, entire to shallowly crenate margins, up to 9 x 2.5 mm, thinly pubescent denser on costae and costules, white dots usually present at the end of the veins on the upper pinna surface; rhachis strawcoloured to dark brown, densely set with minute white hairs. Sori up to 9 per lobe borne about halfway between the costules and the margin, circular, c. 1 mm in diameter; indusium c.0.6 mm in diameter, hairless, entire.


A common and attractive fern in rocky Brachystegia woodland, where it forms large patches. The fronds shrivel up in the dry season and new green fronds appear in the rainy season.
Looks very much like A. monocarpa which has a stipe that is articulated in the lower half and is lacking the row of white dots near the margins on the upper surface of the pinna lobes. A. orientalis is a woodland species while A. monocarpa is a forest fern.


orientalis: oriental, eastern; first described from Yemen, it was originally thought to be a plant from the East and named accordingly.


Amongst rocks in open deciduous woodland, in dappled shade, in seasonally wet grassland with scattered trees.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Yemen, Réunion, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan, Tanzania , Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form

Lithophytic, terrestrial.


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