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Arrowhead Fern, Hard Fern

Pellaea calomelanos var. calomelanos


Went back this afternoon to see if it was only one of these ferns spotted a few months ago. It is growing quite prolific and since I knew what to look for I was quite surprised. A few photos but the chocolate dusting like on the previous spotting on the edges is still green.


This attractive plant is widespread in the summer-rainfall areas of South Africa and is the most common fern in Gauteng. Description The hard fern is very leathery in texture, with bipinnate fronds [= leaves of a fern; bipinnate = divided into primary divisions (pinnas) which are again divided into secondary divisions (pinnules)]) 160–200 mm long and remarkable for a general lack of protective hairs. The rigid, blue-green fronds are up to 350 mm long and are held erect on strong, shining black stipes (= petioles or leaf stalks of a fern). This distinctive and common fern has a short, creeping underground rootstock about 6 mm in diameter, covered with small brown scales. The firm-textured pinnules have a distinct line of brown spore-producing bodies (sori) along the edges. Conservation status P. calomelanos is listed on the Red List of South African plants 2009 as Least Concern. A taxon is Least Concern when it has been evaluated against the five IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) criteria and does not qualify for the categories Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Near Threatened, or the South African categories Critically Rare, Rare or Declining. Widespread and abundant taxa are typically listed as Least Concern. Distribution and habitat P. calomelanos occurs over large parts of southern Africa, from the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape. It is also widespread in parts of tropical Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean. The species can be found on many hillsides where it usually grows at the base of rocks and often manages to survive in tiny pockets of soil in the crevices. It can withstand seasonal droughts remarkably well and is therefore found even in exceptionally dry places. The species adapts well to exposed conditions. Derivation of name and historical aspects The genus name Pellaea is derived from the Greek word pellos, dark, in allusion to the stalks of this fern which are generally dark. The Greek calos means beautiful and melanos means black. Ecology The spores of ferns are distributed by air and can travel over long distances. For this reason many species are widespread and occupy similar habitats in different countries, thus reducing the percentage of endemics in a given region. Uses and cultural aspects Burnt leaves are smoked for headaches, chest colds, asthma and head colds. Decoctions of rhizomes are traditionally used to treat boils, mouth or nasal ulcers and intestinal parasites. Boiled roots and rhizomes are used as poultices for abscesses, while milk decoctions of rhizomes are administered to frightened children at night and for internal sores. Tea made from this species was an early Cape remedy for colds and chest ailments.


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Johan Heyns
Spotted by
Johan Heyns

Lesedi Local Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa

Spotted on Oct 14, 2012
Submitted on Oct 14, 2012

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