Polypodium - Polypodiaceae

Polypodium vulgare L.






Ctenopteris vulgaris (L.) Newman

Common name


Rhizome 3-7 mm in diameter, creeping, branching, whitish waxy, rather thick, with phylopodia; rhizome scales lanceolate to ovate in outline, pale brown, 3-7 mm long. Fronds spaced 0.7-2.5 cm apart, evergreen, erect, monomorphic, thick and rigid. Stipe 1.8-17 cm long, jointed at base, straw-coloured, narrowly triangular, glabrous or with red-brown scales, to 4 mm, peltate. Lamina 8-20 x 3.5-7.5 cm, pinnate to pinnatifid, narrowly ovate to oblong in outline, truncated base, mid green, dull in shade, rhachis glabrous above, sparsely scaly below, pale yellow-brown; scales lanceolate-ovate. Pinnae 10 to 20 pair, alternate, oblong, apex bluntly pointed, base widely flared and adnate to the rhachis, the base touching those of the adjacent pinnae, margins entire to slightly wavy or irregular; veins free, forking, terminating in a hydathode c. 0.5 mm in from the margin, hairless on both surfaces. Sori round, 1.5-3 mm in diameter, discrete, sunken into the lamina, bulging on the top surface, set in a single row on each side midway between margin and midrib, on the upper half of the blade; indusium absent.



vulgare: common; first described in Nothern and Western Europe where it is common and widespread.


Acidic, well-drained locations, on rocks, logs, hillsides, cliff faces on southern or eastern aspects.

Distribution worldwide

Africa, Europe, North America, Kerguelen Island.

Distribution in Africa

Algeria, Lesotho, Libya, Morocco and Western Sahara, South Africa, Tunesia.

Growth form

Epiphytic, lithophytic, terrestrial.


  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 193.
  • Crouch, N.R., Klopper, R.R., Burrows, J.E. & Burrows, S.M. (2011) Ferns of Southern Africa, A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature. Pages 562 - 563. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 317 - 318. (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 164.
  • Stuart, T. (2004-) Hardy Fern Library. Published on the internet: http://hardyfernlibrary.com/ferns/home.cfm. Page 0. (Includes a picture).