Cheilanthes tenuifolia (PROSEA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Logo PROSEA.png
Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Cheilanthes tenuifolia (Burm.f.) Swartz

Protologue: Syn. fil.: 129, 332 (1806).
Family: Pteridaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 56-60 (diploid), 112-120 (tetraploid)


Cheilanthes hispidula Kunze (1848), Cheilanthes moluccana Kunze (1848), Cheilosoria tenuifolia (Burm.f.) Trev. (1877).

Vernacular names

  • Narrow-leaved lip fern (En)
  • Indonesia: paku jepun (Sundanese), paku alus (Moluccas), paku resam lumut (Bangka)
  • Malaysia: resam lumut, resam padi, paku telur belangkas
  • Philippines: pakong-roman (Tagalog)
  • Thailand: chon phee (peninsular)
  • Vietnam: thần mô lá mảnh.

Origin and geographic distribution

C. tenuifolia is distributed in the tropics of Asia and Oceania, from northern India, Sri Lanka, southern China and Taiwan, throughout South-East Asia to Australia and many Pacific islands.


In Peninsular Malaysia, a decoction of C. tenuifolia is traditionally used as a hair tonic (to thicken hair), and the ashes of its burnt leaves mixed with those of other plants (e.g. Biophytum sp., Hedyotis sp. and a wild pepper) are powdered over newborn infants. In Indonesia (Ambon), people also traditionally use a decoction of the plant as a hair tonic, as a substitute for maidenhair fern ( Adiantum spp.). C. tenuifolia is also valuable as an ornamental.

Production and international trade

No international trade of C. tenuifolia exists and it is not cultivated commercially. The plants are collected from the wild whenever needed.


Reports of toxicity of C. tenuifolia are based on Australian literature and probably refer to C. sieberi Kunze.


A small, terrestrial fern, up to 70 cm tall, with triangular, long-stalked leaves and marginal sori. Rhizome ascending, much branched, wiry, about 7 cm × 3 mm, clothed with subulate, entire scales, 2-4 mm × 1 mm, light to dark brown. Leaves many, densely tufted, dimorphous, the sterile ones usually much smaller than the fertile ones; petiole slender, up to 45 cm long on fertile leaves, usually about 1.5 times the length of the lamina, much shorter (4-6 cm) on sterile leaves, lustrous dark brown, bearing scattered short brown hairs, sometimes glabrescent when old, slightly swollen and densely scaly at base, sparsely and minutely scaly near apex, sulcate above; sterile laminas ovate to broadly deltoid, about 10 cm × 8 cm, quadripinnate below, grading through tripinnate to pinnate at the apex, chartaceous, all parts setose; pinnae subopposite, approximate to imbricate; rachis coloured as petiole, distally green, glabrous, ribs sparsely hairy or glabrescent; pinnae deltoid to ovate, inequilateral, more developed towards the base, up to about 6 cm long, the lower ones stalked; pinnules ovate to oblong, 2-5 mm × 2-3 mm, sessile, lobed or entire, the first one on the basal pinnae 1.5-2 times as long as the next one; ultimate divisions elliptical, the largest about 3 mm long, entire or slightly lobed; veins dark, simply or double forked in the larger leaflets, invisible above, distinct below; fertile laminas similar but larger, up to 30-70 cm × 7-22 cm, the pinnae more distant. Sori rounded, marginal, confined to the end of veins on the lower pinnule surfaces but appearing continuous at margin of lobes, when young protected by inrolled margins of lobes, edges uneven, pellucid, black; sporangia almost globular, 0.1 mm in diameter, short-stalked, 10-20 per sorus, with a vertical annulus of 16-19 cells. Spores trilete, tetrahedral, 40-60 μm × 41-46 μm, with reticulate-echinate ornamentation, brown or nearly black, 32 per sporangium.

Growth and development

A spore of C. tenuifolia germinates readily in culture; rhizoids emerge within 2 weeks after sowing. The prothallus reaches maturity about 6 months after germination of the spore and the gametophyte is cordate, about 1 cm long, glabrous, with a prominent midrib bearing rhizoids and sex organs. The midrib is 6-8 cells thick and the wing cells are uniformly thin-walled. Antheridia mostly globose, appearing superficially on the underside, occasionally on the margins, when the prothallus is about 2 mm wide (after about 40 days) and still one cell thick. The archegonial neck is composed of 6 tiers of cells and curved. Fertilization and formation of sporophytes occurs profusely in culture and generally only a single sporophyte develops per prothallus. The first juvenile leaf is entire, broadly cuneate to spatulate, with a single median vein dichotomizing equally once or twice, hairy especially on the margin. C. tenuifolia grows actively during the rainy season and becomes dormant in the dry season.

Other botanical information

In the literature, Cheilanthes Swartz can also be found classified in other families such as Adiantaceae, Parkeriaceae, Polypodiaceae, Sinopteridaceae or in the so-called Adiantum group. Within the Pteridaceae , Cheilanthes is classified in the subfamily Cheilanthoideae , including genera such as Llavea Lagasca and Pellaea Link. C. tenuifolia is a variable species. In Queensland (Australia) two subspecies are distinguished, subsp. tenuifolia (synonyms: C. sciadiodes Domin, Notholaena sciadiodes Domin) and subsp. shirleyana Domin (synonym: C. shirleyana (Domin) Quirck & T. Chambers) which differ in lamina characteristics. In subsp. tenuifolia the lamina is ovate to broadly triangular in outline, usually at least twice as long as wide, the basal branches of the basal pinnae on the lower side not markedly enlarged, ultimate segments of fertile leaves with margins bearing small, obtuse lobes which may or may not be reflexed, partly covering the sori. In subsp. shirleyana the lamina is broadly pentagonal, about as long as wide, basal branches of the basal pinnae markedly enlarged; ultimate segments of fertile leaves irregularly crenate, the margins reflexed almost continuously along each side of a segment, covering or partly covering the sori.

The combination Cheilanthes tenuifolia has also been applied to 2 other species: C. insignis Ching (1974) (homonym: C. tenuifolia C. Chr., 1924), and C. chusana Hook. (1858) (homonym: C. tenuifolia Hook., 1862).

In Burma (Myanmar) leaves of C. farinosa (Forssk.) Kaulf., a pantropically distributed species with characteristic white-powdery leaf undersides, form part of religious temple offerings. Bouquets of the leaves which grow abundantly nearby, are left amongst offerings at the temple on Mt Popa, an extinct volcano.


C. tenuifolia occurs often on unfertile, dry or humid, rocky ground in open forest areas, on old stone or earthen walls, sometimes amidst alang-alang ( Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeuschel) or as a weed on ridges in plantations, sometimes gregariously, from sea-level up to 1500 m altitude. It is drought-resistant but also grows well in areas with abundant rainfall. In regions with a pronounced dry season the aboveground parts wither and the plant resumes growth after the first rains. It is often able to regenerate when the grassy vegetation in which it grows is mowed not too close to the ground.

Propagation and planting

Natural propagation of C. tenuifolia is by spores, and it is said to have an apogamous character. It is easier to grow than other species of Cheilanthes and does best under semi-protected conditions.


Leaves of C. tenuifolia are collected from the wild and used fresh, as decoction or stored dry.

Genetic resources and breeding

C. tenuifolia seems not to be in danger of genetic erosion as it is distributed widely and is rarely collected on a large scale. However, the spore number in each sporangium and the type of spore germination indicate that the species reproduces apogamously. If sexual reproduction is absent C. tenuifolia will genetically remain less variable and evolutionary perhaps be in danger. Germplasm collections or breeding programmes are not known to exist.


Since C. tenuifolia is used in South-East Asia as a medicine and because it has potential as an ornamental, research on the possibilities for its domestication is worth considering.


  • Bidin, A., 1989. Tinjauan flora dan sitotaksonomi paku-pakis di Semenanjung Malaysia [A review on the flora and cytotaxonomy of ferns in Peninsular Malaysia]. Penyelidikan Semasa Sains Hayat 4: 47-58.
  • Holttum, R.E., 1966. A revised flora of Malaya. 2nd Edition. Vol. 2. Ferns of Malaya. Government Printing Office, Singapore. pp. 589-592.
  • Nayar, B.K., 1963. The morphology of some species of Cheilanthes. The Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 58(374): 449-460.
  • Quirk, H., Chambers, T.C. & Regan, M., 1983. The fern genus Cheilanthes in Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 31: 501-553.
  • Tagawa, M. & Iwatsuki, K., 1985. Cheilanthes. In: Tagawa, M. & Iwatsuki, K. (Volume editors), 1979-1989. Pteridophytes. In: Smitinand, T., Larsen, K. (Series editors): Flora of Thailand. Vol. 3. Forest Herbarium, Royal Forest Department, Bangkok, Thailand. pp. 200-206.
  • Zamora, P.M., 1975. Sporangial type in three species of Cheilanthes. Kalikasan 4: 106-112.
  • Zamora, P.M., Amoroso, C.B., Chaimongkol, S. & Marzan, M., 1993. Structure & development of the gametophytes of Philippine cheilantoid ferns, IV. Cheilanthes tenuifolia. Asia Life Science Journal 2(1): 88-98.


Dedy Darnaedi & Titien Ngatinem Praptosuwiryo