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Angiopteris evecta
Angiopteris evecta Coffs Harbour.jpg
Angiopteris evecta IMG 20190502 115415.jpg
Scientific classification
Genus:
Angiopteris
Species:
evecta
Synonyms

See Synonyms section below

Angiopteris evecta is a very large fern found in parts of Southeast Asia and the western Pacific. It is naturalised in Hawaii, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba. Common names in English include King fern, Giant fern, Elephant fern, Oriental Vessel fern, Madagascar tree fern, and Mule's Foot fern. In other languages it is known as 莲座蕨 (lian zuo jue) in Chinese and fougère royale in French. Localised common names include e'e (Cook Islands); helecho elefante (Cuba); nahe (French Polynesia); polato (Niue); bersarm, demarm, and dermarm (Palau); nase and oli oli (Samoa); and hulufe tano, hulufe vai, and ponga (Tonga).

Description

A. evecta growing on the Lamb Range, Queensland, Australia
A. evecta near Cape Tribulation, Australia

Angiopteris evecta is a self-supporting evergreen perennial fern with very large bipinnate fronds. The trunk-like rhizome is massive, measuring up to 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter. The older portions of the rhizome lie on the ground while the newer growth may rise vertically up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) high. The arching, glossy green fronds, which emerge from the top of the trunk, may reach up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide and 9 m (30 ft) long, with the fleshy green petiole (leaf stem) making up 2 m (6.6 ft) of that length. They are said to be the longest fern fronds in the world. Despite their size they have no strengthening tissues, instead they are supported entirely by the turgor pressure of the sap. The rachises, pinnae and pinnules are all pulvinate (swollen at the base). Sporangia are borne on the underside of the pinnules, very close to the margin, in clusters of 5 to 8 opposite pairs. On either side of the petiole where it arises from the trunk there are flat, rounded, leathery, ear-shaped stipules, known as "auricles", which can measure up to 10 to 15 cm (3.9 to 5.9 in). Overall dimensions of this fern can be up to 7 m (23 ft) high by 16 m (52 ft) wide.

Taxonomy

Angiopteris-evecta-pinnule
Underside of a pinnule of A. evecta, showing sporangia

Angiopteris evecta is the type species of the genus Angiopteris. It was originally named Polypodium evectum and described by Georg Forster in 1786, but was reclassified in 1796 by Georg Franz Hoffmann. There are many synonyms (see Synonyms section below) which are considered by some authorities to potentially be distinct species, calling for a more thorough taxonomic investigation.

Etymology

The genus name comes from the Ancient Greek aggeion, a vessel, and pteris, a fern. The species epithet derives from the Latin adjective evectus meaning swollen or inflated.

Evolution

Angiopteris-evecta-lamb-range2
Rachis of a frond of A. evecta, showing pulvini at the bases of side branches

Fossil records in Paleozoic rocks have been found which are very similar to Angiopteris evecta, indicating that the species has been in existence for around 300 million years. The geographically isolated communities seen today point to favourable climatic conditions being more widespread in the past.

Distribution and habitat

Angiopteris evecta is native to southeast Asia, from Singapore through Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia to Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. It has been introduced to most of the rest of tropical Asia, as well as Madagascar and parts of the tropical Americas.

The species grows in very rich soils, often of volcanic origin and prefers a very warm wet climate. It is most commonly found as an understorey plant in well developed rainforest, especially along creek banks in deep sheltered gullies where there is good drainage but also a plentiful supply of fresh water. The preferred annual mean temperature range is 19–27 °C (66–81 °F) and annual precipitation between 1,000–5,447 mm (39.4–214.4 in). It may grow at altitudes from sea level to 1,500 m (4,900 ft)

Cultural uses

The starchy rhizomes are eaten after long processing to remove toxins, used to perfume coconut oil, to flavour rice and to produce an intoxicating drink. The 1889 book The Useful Native Plants of Australia records Indigenous Australians ate the pith of this fern.

Conservation status

The conservation status of Angiopteris evecta varies from place to place. For example in Australia's Northern Territory it is listed as vulnerable, with only one small population in north eastern Arnhem Land; in New South Wales, where suitable habitat is restricted to a small area in the north east corner of the state and only a single, non-reproductive specimen is known, it is listed as endangered. However in Queensland, which sits in between the previous two and where there is an abundance of suitable habitat, it is listed as least concern.

Invasive potential

When introduced to an area with a suitable climate, Angiopteris evecta can establish dense stands that inhibit local species. It is listed as invasive in Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica and Hawaii, where in each case it has escaped from plantings in botanic gardens. It has also been introduced to many tropical countries and has repeatedly escaped from cultivation.

Synonyms

Plants of the World Online lists 74 synonyms for Angiopteris evecta:

  • Angiopteris acrocarpa de Vriese
  • Angiopteris affinis de Vriese
  • Angiopteris alata Nadeaud
  • Angiopteris albidopunctulata Rosenst.
  • Angiopteris amboinensis de Vriese
  • Angiopteris angustata Miq.
  • Angiopteris angustifolia C.Presl
  • Angiopteris ankolana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris aphanosorus de Vriese
  • Angiopteris approximata de Vriese
  • Angiopteris arborescens (Blanco) Merr.
  • Angiopteris assamica de Vriese
  • Angiopteris athroocarpa Alderw.
  • Angiopteris aurata de Vriese
  • Angiopteris badioneura de Vriese
  • Angiopteris beecheyana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris brongniartiana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris canaliculata Holttum
  • Angiopteris caudata de Vriese
  • Angiopteris chauliodonta Copel.
  • Angiopteris commutata C.Presl
  • Angiopteris crassifolia de Vriese
  • Angiopteris cumingii Hieron.
  • Angiopteris cupreata de Vriese
  • Angiopteris cuspidata de Vriese
  • Angiopteris dregeana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris durvilleana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris elongata Hieron.
  • Angiopteris erecta Desv.
  • Angiopteris evanidostriata Hieron.
  • Angiopteris evecta var. rurutensis E.D.Br.
  • Angiopteris grisea Alderw.
  • Angiopteris hellwigii Hieron.
  • Angiopteris inconstans Alderw.
  • Angiopteris indica Desv.
  • Angiopteris intricata C.Presl
  • Angiopteris javanica C.Presl
  • Angiopteris lancifoliolata Alderw.
  • Angiopteris lasegueana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris lauterbachii Hieron.
  • Angiopteris leytensis Alderw.
  • Angiopteris longifolia Grev. & Hook.
  • Angiopteris lorentzii Rosenst.
  • Angiopteris medogensis Ching & Y.X.Lin
  • Angiopteris mekongensis Ching ex C.Chr. & Tardieu
  • Angiopteris microsporangia de Vriese
  • Angiopteris microura Copel.
  • Angiopteris miqueliana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris monstruosa Alderw.
  • Angiopteris naumannii Hieron.
  • Angiopteris norrisii Rosenst.
  • Angiopteris novocaledonica Hieron.
  • Angiopteris oligotheca Hieron.
  • Angiopteris olivacea Alderw.
  • Angiopteris palauensis Hieron.
  • Angiopteris pallescens de Vriese
  • Angiopteris pallida Rosenst.
  • Angiopteris palmiformis (Cav.) C.Chr.
  • Angiopteris papandayanensis Hieron.
  • Angiopteris polytheca C.Chr. & Tardieu
  • Angiopteris presliana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris ruttenii Alderw.
  • Angiopteris similis C.Presl
  • Angiopteris stellatosora C.Chr.
  • Angiopteris subfurfuracea Alderw.
  • Angiopteris teysmanniana de Vriese
  • Angiopteris uncinata de Vriese
  • Angiopteris willinkii Miquel
  • Callipteris heterophylla .Moore
  • Clementea palmiformis Cav.
  • Danaea evecta (G.Forst.) Spreng.
  • Lomaria pedunculata Goldm.
  • Myriotheca arborescens Blanco
  • Polypodium evectum G.Forst.

Map of observations of Angiopteris evecta at the Australasian Virtual Herbarium

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