Hemionitis arifolia (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Hemionitis arifolia (Burm.f.) T. Moore

Protologue: Index fil.: 114 (1859).
Family: Pteridaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 120 (tetraploid)


Asplenium arifolium Burm.f. (1768), Hemionitis cordifolia Roxb. (1828), H. cordata Hook. & Grev. (1828).

Origin and geographic distribution

H. arifolia is native from India and Sri Lanka throughout continental South-East Asia to southern China, Taiwan and the Philippines.


In the Philippines, juice of the leaves of H. arifolia , sometimes mixed with that of other species, is sprinkled on burns. In Thailand, it is grown as an ornamental in terrariums. In India people have believed since ancient times that H. arifolia possesses magical power.

Production and international trade

No international trade in H. arifolia exists, nor is it commercially cultivated. It is only locally used.


Five flavonol-3-O-glycosides have been identified from H. arifolia : quercetin-3-O-glycoside, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, kaempterol-3-O-glucoside, quercetin-3-O-rutinoside and kaempterol-3-O-rutinoside. Furthermore the flavone-C-glycoside apigenin-6,8-C-diglycoside has been found along with 5 other unidentified flavonoids.


A small fern, up to about 35 cm tall, with heart-shaped, firm leaves. Rhizome short, suberect, covered with scales and brownish hairs; scales narrowly triangular, 2-3 mm long, entire, brown at both sides. Leaves simple, sterile ones forming a rosette, fertile ones erect; petiole 4-9 cm long in sterile leaves, 15-30 cm in fertile ones, grooved, dark brown to black, hairy (narrowly scaly) throughout, hairs up to 1.5 mm long, lax, spreading, multicellular, coarse; sterile leaf blade narrowly ovate to oblong, up to 9 cm × 4.5 cm, deeply cordate at base, margins entire, apex rounded, rather thickly papyraceous to chartaceous, under surface with scales and hairs and prominent midrib, the veins reticulate, obscure, without free veinlets; fertile leaf blade oblong-subdeltoid to sagittate, up to 5 cm × 3 cm, at base cordate or bi-auriculate to hastate, margins entire, apex moderately acute, texture thinner than the sterile leaf blade; at the base of the upper surface of adult sterile and fertile leaf blades 1-3 small bulbils are present which are important for the vegetative reproduction of the fern. Sporangia continuous along the veins, forming a network all over the undersurface, sometimes completely covering it, without indusia but mixed with long narrow scales and hairs. Spores tetrahedral-globose, trilete, 25-30 μm in diameter, with prominent ridges.

Growth and development

H. arifolia is an apogamic tetraploid. The bulbils at the base of the leaf blades are of epidermal origin and their vascularization joins that of the lamina. The development of the stele of these epiphyllous bulbils is identical to that of the young sporophyte, but the bulbils acquire certain morphological and anatomical characters earlier than the sporeling. The first bulbils appear on the 4-6th leaf. The bulbils usually come into contact with the growing substrate when the leaf decomposes, but they rarely detach from the lamina.

Other botanical information

Hemionitis L. is here classified in the subfamily Cheilanthoideae , family Pteridaceae , together with other genera such as Cheilanthes Swartz, Doryopteris J. Smith and Paraceterach (F.v.Mueller) Copel.; it is also classified in Adiantaceae , Parkeriaceae or Sinopteridaceae . Hemionitis comprises 8 species, 7 distributed in tropical America, 1 ( H. arifolia ) in the Old World tropics. Although H. arifolia is classified in Hemionitis now, it is in fact a species not readily included in any recognized genus. In some technical details it is similar to Paraceterach but differs in its dimorphic leaves and simple, cordate to hastate leaf blades with sparse indumentum. In Peninsular Malaysia H. arifolia is much less common than the related Doryopteris ludens (Wall.) J. Smith (creeping rhizome, petiole not grooved, much less scaly) which grows in similar localities.


H. arifolia is found on muddy rocks, especially limestone, or along paths in dense forest at low to medium altitudes up to 900 m.

Propagation and planting

H. arifolia can be propagated by spores and by the bulbils at the base of the leaf blades. If planted it is best maintained in small pots as long as possible. The plants prefer a moist, humus-rich, neutral to alkaline soil mix, and warm conditions in medium light. H. arifolia is not cultivated commercially and cultivation requirements are not well known.

Genetic resources and breeding

Germplasm collections and breeding programmes of H. arifolia do not exist as far as is known. It is very often stated that H. arifolia is not a common plant despite its wide distribution.


Further research is required regarding the botany and the medicinal value of H. arifolia . Its possibilities as an ornamental seem promising but need closer investigation. Because it is nowhere a common fern, germplasm collection is urgently recommended.


  • Giannasi, D.E., 1974. Phytochemical aspects of fern systematics. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 61: 368-378.
  • Giannasi, D.E. & Mickel, J.T., 1979. Systematic implications of flavonoid pigments in the fern genus Hemionitis (Adiantaceae). Brittonia 31: 405-412.
  • Holttum, R.E., 1966. A revised flora of Malaya. 2nd Edition. Vol. 2. Ferns of Malaya. Government Printing Office, Singapore. p.596.
  • Nicolas, P., 1983. Contribution à l'étude du genre Hemionitis L. 1. Morphologie et anatomie de H. arifolia (Burm.) Moore (Adiantaceae) [Contribution to the study of the genus Hemionitis L. 1. Morphology and anatomy of H. arifolia (Burm.) Moore (Adiantaceae)]. Adansonia 5: 109-120.
  • Nicolas, P., 1985. Contribution à l'étude du genre Hemionitis L. 3. La ramification de H. arifolia (Burm.) Moore (Adiantaceae) et conclusions générales relatives à ce genre [Contribution to the study of the genus Hemionitis L. 3. The branching of H. arifolia (Burm.) Moore (Adiantaceae) and general conclusions concerning this genus]. Adansonia 7: 105-110.
  • Perry, L.M., 1980. Medicinal plants of East and Southeast Asia: Attributed properties and uses. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States & London, United Kingdom. 620 pp.
  • 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. 191-192.
  • Tryon, R.M., 1990. Hemionitis. In: Kramer, K.U. & Green, P.S. (Volume editors): Pteridophytes and gymnosperms. In: Kubitzki, K. (Series editor): The families and genera of vascular plants. Vol. 1. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany. pp. 244-246.


Dedy Darnaedi & Titien Ngatinem Praptosuwiryo