Stenochlaena palustris (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Stenochlaena palustris (Burm.f.) Bedd.

Protologue: Suppl. ferns Brit. India: 26 (1876).
Family: Blechnaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 148 (level of ploidy unknown)


Polypodium palustre Burm.f. (1768), Acrostichum scandens (Swartz) Hook. (1864).

Vernacular names

  • Climbing (swamp) fern, liane-fern (En)
  • Indonesia: pakis bang (Javanese), paku hurang (Sundanese), paku merah (Kalimantan, Moluccas)
  • Malaysia: akar paku, paku miding, paku ranu
  • Philippines: diliman, hagnaya, lanas
  • Thailand: prong suan, phak kuut daeng (central), lam matheng (eastern and south-western).

Origin and geographic distribution

S. palustris is distributed from India throughout South-East Asia to Australia and Polynesia. It is sometimes cultivated.


In South-East Asia, crozier and young red leaves of S. palustris are relished as a vegetable, and are cooked after having withered. It has a pleasant taste, similar to amaranth, and is therefore found on the menu of local restaurants and throughout Malaysia it is eaten like spinach. S. palustris is also used as an ornamental and its black rhizomes are sometimes applied as a wig to supplement thin hair. In general the rhizome is used as an inferior substitute for rattan, e.g. for binding fish-traps, making baskets, ropes and belts. S. palustris also has various medicinal uses. In Sumatra, the vegetable is eaten when a gentle laxative is desired. In Malaysia, the young shoots are used to treat diarrhoea while a decoction or the juice is taken internally for fever. Externally an infusion is used for moistening the head of the person with fever. In Laos it is also applied against fever. In Thailand, the juice is used for skin diseases and in Sabah it is a remedy for swellings. In the Nicobar Islands, S. palustris is among the plants used as an abortifacient and contraceptive.

Production and international trade

S. palustris is not cultivated commercially, but only grown locally on a small scale, usually in a hedge. The used parts are usually collected from the wild when the need arises. The crozier and young leaves are often sold as a vegetable on the local market. In the first half of the 20th Century there was substantial export of dried rhizomes from Karimun Island (Indonesia) to Singapore.


In sea water the rhizomes of S. palustris are more durable than rattan, which explains their demand for use in ropes and fishing gear. Five O-acylated flavonol glycosides (stenopalustrosides A-E) have been isolated from the leaves,as well as a glycoside (stenopaluside) (4S',5R')-4-[(9Z)-2,13-di-(O-β-d-glucopyranosyl)-5,9,10-trimethyl-8-oxo-9- tetradecene-5-yl]-3,3,5-trimethylcyclohexanone, a cerebroside 1-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl-(2S',3R',4E,8Z)-2-N-[(2R)-hydroxytetracosanoyl]octadecasphinga-4,8-dienine,

the kaempferols 3-O-(3-O-E-p-coumaroyl)-(6-O-E-feruloyl)-β-D-glucopyranoside, 3-O-(3,6-di-O-E-p-coumaroyl)-β-D-glucopyranoside, 3-O-(3-O-E-p-coumaroyl)-β-D-glucopyranoside, 3-O-(6-O-E-p-coumaroyl)-β-D-glucopyranoside (tiliroside), 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, 3-oxo-4,5-dihydro-α-ionyl β-d-glucopyranoside and β-sitosterol-3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, 3-formylindole and lutein.

Stenopalustrosides A-D showed significant antibacterial activities against Gram-positive strains ( Bacillus cereus , Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidermidis ). The minimum inhibition concentration of stenopalustroside A is 2 μg/ml, which is even lower than chloramphenicol (4 μg/ml). A search for alkaloid-containing plants in New Guinea found the leaves to be alkaloid-negative.


A wide and upwardly scrambling marsh fern with pinnate leaves of which the fertile ones are remarkably constricted. Rhizome long-creeping, scrambling or climbing on tree-trunks, up to 1 cm in diameter, green; scales peltate, brown, imbricate, absent from the older parts of the rhizome. Leaves well spaced, dimorphic, pinnate; petiole firm, erect, 7-30(-82) cm long, adaxially slightly canaliculate, stramineous to brown, glabrous or with reddish-brown peltate scales; lamina ovate, 17-50(-180) cm × 9-50 cm, bright green, young leaves red, intermediate stages olivaceous, coriaceous and lustrous, glabrous although young plants may have some scales and short pale hairs all over, with 4-14 pairs of alternating pinnae; rachis and costae stramineous to brown, glabrous; sterile pinnae variable in size and shape, short petiolate, articulate to the rachis, lamina narrowly ovate to lanceolate, 5-20 cm × 1-5 cm, the base unequal, cuneately rounded with a small pulvinate gland on the acroscopic side, margins hyaline, sharply irregularly serrate, apex acuminate; veins pellucid, simple or forked, at a broad angle from a row of very narrow costal areoles to the margin, not reduced to the lamina basis but with a few rudimentary pinnae on the petiole below the normal ones; fertile pinnae much constricted, 2-5 mm wide, the margin often protecting the young sori. Sori acrostichoid except for a narrow marginal band, without paraphyses. Spores bilateral, 41 μm × 27 μm, colourless, translucent, papillose-verrucose.

Growth and development

The gametophyte in Blechnaceae is cordate, or elongate when mature, with a distinct, often firm midrib. They often bear chlorophyllous hairs. The gametangia are of the common, advanced leptosporangiate type.

Other botanical information

Stenochlaena J. Smith comprises 6 species in tropical and warm temperate parts of the Old World, 2 in Africa, 4 in Asia, Australia and the Pacific. In anatomical characters Stenochlaena is somewhat divergent from the other genera in Blechnaceae and therefore it is classified in a separate subfamily Stenochlaenoideae. The rhizome bears peltate scales and has a few larger central, and many smaller peripheral vascular bundles; the petiole in cross section has many vascular bundles not in U-shape. In the other subfamily ( Blechnoideae ) the vascular bundles in the petiole form a simple U in cross-section and the stem bears non-peltate scales.


S. palustris is common on rather wet ground such as freshwater swamp forests, sago swamps, behind mangroves or beach vegetation, along rivers, marshes and on floating vegetation. Most commonly it is a scrambling, high-climbing epiphyte in periodically inundated areas, where the lower parts of the rhizome are frequently submerged. It prefers open sites and secondary forest, sometimes fully exposed to the sun but preferring partial shade, and is found in the lowlands and low hills up to 300-400 m in Thailand and New Guinea, and to 900 m in Java. It also occurs in the rain forest and in areas that are never flooded. In rubber plantations it can become a noxious weed. Fertile leaves are infrequently produced, possibly stimulated by a period of dry weather. As a result sporelings are rare but the plants spread rapidly by vegetative means.

Propagation and planting

S. palustris can be propagated by spores, but more easily by rhizome cuttings.


S. palustris is very difficult to cultivate ex situ. In warm climates, however, it will grow easily, provided there is enough light and moisture.

Diseases and pests

Unidentified leaf spots have been observed on S. palustris .


The crozier and young leaves of S. palustris are collected when the need arises. Rhizomes are collected from the wild for binding material.

Handling after harvest

Fresh young leaves of S. palustris are tied into bundles and sold as a vegetable on local markets. For binding material, rhizomes are freed of leaves and dried.

Genetic resources and breeding

S. palustris does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion since it is rather widely distributed and extraction from the wild still only takes place on a very small scale. No germplasm collections or breeding programmes are known to exist.


S. palustris is an interesting fern which is used as a vegetable, and for fibre and medicine. Further research is needed to evaluate its various uses and properties and its potential for domestication.


  • Hartini, S. & Ruspandi, 1998. Stenochlaena palustris (Burm.) Bedd., paku memanjat yang banyak manfaat [Stenochlaena palustris (Burm.) Bedd., a climbing fern with many uses]. Warta Kebun Raya 2(3): 17-22.
  • Holttum, R.E., 1966. A revised flora of Malaya. 2nd Edition. Vol. 2. Ferns of Malaya. Government Printing Office, Singapore. pp. 412-413.
  • Liu, H., Orjala, J., Rali, T. & Sticher, O., 1998. Glycosides from Stenochlaena palustris. Phytochemistry 49(8): 2403-2408.
  • Liu, H., Orjala, J., Sticher, O. & Rali, T., 1999. Acylated flavonol glycosides from leaves of Stenochlaena palustris. Journal of Natural Products 62(1): 70-55.
  • Mertz, O. , 1999. Cultivation potential of two edible ferns, Diplazium esculentum and Stenochlaena palustris. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad and Tobago) 76(1): 10-16.
  • Ochse, J.J. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R.C., 1980. Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies. 3rd English Edition (translation of "Indische groenten", 1931). A. Asher & Co., Amsterdam, The Netherlands. pp. 608-610.
  • Zamora, P.M. & Co, L., 1986. Guide to Philippine flora and fauna. Vol. 2. Economic ferns, endemic ferns, gymnosperms. Natural Resources Management Center, Ministry of Natural Resources and University of the Philippines, Goodwill Bookstore, Manila, The Philippines. pp. 52-53.


Dedy Darnaedi & Titien Ngatinem Praptosuwiryo