Polypodium - Polypodiaceae

Polypodium ensiforme Thunb.






Microsorum ensiforme (Thunb.) Schelpe
Phymatodes ensiformis (Thunb.) Schelpe
Phlebodium ensiforme (Thunb.) J.Sm.
Phymatosorus ensiformis (Thunb.) Pic.Serm.

Common name


Rhizome creeping, 4-7 mm in diameter; rhizome scales dense, dark brown, linear lanceolate in outline, c. 2 mm long, margins pale, filamentous. Fronds spaced 0.4-3 cm apart, stiff, erect, thickly coriacous, almost fleshy. Stipe 0.5-16 cm long, brown, darker towards the base, glabrous. Lamina 12-30 x 5-15 cm, deeply pinnatifid to pinnate, rarely completely simple. Ultimate lobes narrowly oblong in outline, base flared, adnate, gradually tapering to the stipe, 5-10 mm wide, angled forward towards the apex at 45-30° from the axis, both surfaces hairless, margins wavy to shallowly scalloped. Sori round to oval, 1-3 mm in diameter, in a single row on either side of the costule.


There is a record of a small, simple fronded form with fronds 3-7 cm long as a result of growing in an exposed situation in rock crevices.


ensiforme: shaped like a sword; possibly alluding to the shape of the apical lamina segment of this species.


Evergreen forest, close to the coast and receiving high rainfall throughout most of the year.

Distribution worldwide

See African distribution.

Distribution in Africa

South Africa.

Growth form

Epiphytic, lithophytic.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 202. (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 560 - 561. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Page 316. (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 163 - 164. (Includes a picture).