Tectaria (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Tectaria Cav.

Protologue: Anales Hist. Nat. 1: 115 (1799).
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Chromosome number: x= 40; T. crenata: 2n= 80; T. singaporeana2n= ? 80

Major species and synonyms

  • Tectaria crenata Cav., Descr. pl.: 250 (1802), synonyms: Aspidium repandum auct. non Willd. (1810), A. pachyphyllum Kunze (1848), A. grandifolium Presl (1851).
  • Tectaria singaporeana (Hook. & Grev.) Copel., Sarawak Mus. J. 2: 368 (1917), synonym: Aspidium singaporeana Hook. & Grev. (1827).

Vernacular names

T. crenata

  • Indonesia & Malaysia: paku kikir.

T. singaporeana

  • Malaysia: paku todak, paku biawak, paku merak
  • Thailand: tan loi (peninsular).

Origin and geographic distribution

The genus Tectaria comprises about 150 species, widely distributed pantropically. T. crenata extends from southern Thailand and northern Vietnam throughout Malesia to Polynesia (Marianas, Carolines, Solomons, New Hebrides and Fiji). T. singaporeana is found in peninsular Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and Borneo.


The young leaves of T. crenata were eaten in Malaysia as a vegetable when nothing better was available. A decoction of the leaves, along with the roots of Dracaena angustifolia Roxb., was used against gonorrhoea. T. singaporeana is also known in Malaysia by the vernacular name meroyan papan'', indicating that it is used after childbirth. It was also applied as a medicine for fever. In India, T. coadunata (J. Smith) C. Chr. and T. polymorpha (Hook.) Copel. are used medicinally in Madhya Pradesh and Kumaon Himalaya. Some Tectaria species are used as ornamentals, e.g. T. grandidentata (Ces.) Holtt., T. griffithii (Baker) C. Chr., T. semipinnata (Roxb.) Morton and T. vasta (Blume) Copel.


The chemical properties of Tectaria have not been studied well. The phenolics gallic acid, ellagic acid, 2,3-hexahydroxydiphenoyl-D-glucose, (-)-epicatechin, (-)-epigallocatechin, (+)-gallocatechin, 3,5-di-O-caffeoylquinate-eriodictyol-8-C-β-D-glucopyranoside and 6,7-dihydroxy-1,1-dimethylisochromane have been isolated from the leaves of T. subtriphylla (Hook. & Arn.) Copel.


Small to rather large, terrestrial or epilithic ferns. Rhizome rather long-creeping to erect, bearing long and narrow, acuminate, often dark brown scales. Leaves often medium-sized to large, monomorphous or dimorphous; petioles remote to clustered, well-developed, stramineous to dark and then often lustrous, often scaly at least near the base, adaxially sulcate, occasionally alate, sometimes hairy, especially in the groove, the hairs short, reddish, articulate, or also with thinner, paler hairs; lamina pinnatifid to bipinnate-pinnatifid, less often lobed or entire and simple, herbaceous to subcoriaceous; basal pinnae segments very often basiscopically produced; rachis like the petiole, rarely dark, usually with reddish, articulate hairs in the adaxial groove, secondary rachis if present sometimes grooved at base, then the groove not joining that of the primary rachis, costae occasionally adaxially with proliferous buds, the leaf apex rarely rooting and proliferous; pinnae sessile or the basal ones short- to long-stalked, or, especially the upper ones adnate and decurrent or also surcurrent, upper pinnae often reduced into a pinnatifid leaf apex, or the apex trilobed, or less often conform; venation catadromous, only the basal pair anadromous, veins more or less anastomosing, usually with some to many free, included veinlets pointing in all directions or not, rarely all veins free; fertile leaves when differing usually more or less contracted. Sori variable in shape and position, with reniform to peltate indusia or without indusia. Spores bilateral and monolete, subellipsoid, with often cristate or echinate wing-like folds, surface usually reticulate-echinate or spinulose.

  • T. crenata . Caudex suberect; lamina up to 70 cm long, the apical section multilobed, the lower lobes grading into adnate pinnae up to 30 cm long, margins subentire to crenate, basal pinnae distinctly petiolate, producing a large basiscopic lobe. Sori on free veinlets in the areoles, rather large, with a firm, slightly reniform indusium. Spores faintly granulose, with irregular thin fimbriate wings.
  • T. singaporeana . Caudex erect, up to 10 cm tall; lamina simple, widest below the middle, up to 40 cm × 12 cm, the fertile ones narrower, base abruptly narrowed and short-decurrent, margins entire, apex short-acuminate. Sori up to 6 in a row on either side of a cross-vein, not on the free veinlets, with a subpeltate indusium.

Growth and development

The gametophyte of Dryopteridaceae is fairly constant in shape, being cordate, with simple, derived gametangia. More variation exists in the presence or absence and structure of superficial appendages which may be hair-like, glandular or branched. In natural forest in Peninsular Malaysia, T. singaporeana needs at least two years to develop from spores to maturity, bearing the first mature pinnae.

Other botanical information

In the literature Tectaria , which is a difficult complex of 150 species, can be found classified in many other families, e.g. Aspidiaceae , Dennstaedtiaceae and Polypodiaceae . Flora Malesiana does not designate a family but classifies it in the Tectaria group. Here the classification of Tectaria in the tribe Tectarieae , subfamily Dryopterioideae of the large family Dryopteridaceae is followed. This same tribe includes, amongst others, the genus Pleocnemia C. Presl. T . crenata has often been misidentified as T. repanda (Willd.) Holttum, usually by the name Aspidium repandum Willd. The latter has a more southern occurrence and is not found north of the line Java - the Philippines. T. repanda has a single veinlet in the areoles of the fertile pinnae and peltate indusia, whereas T. crenata has mostly forked veinlets and slightly reniform indusia.

Propagation and planting

Tectaria can be propagated by spores, and in the case of T. singaporeana also by buds at the base of pinnae.


Tectaria is usually terrestrial in forest, mostly near streams, not rarely on cliffs, on road banks and also often on rocks and in thickets, rarely in open locations. T. crenata is found in lowland and hilly forests. T. singaporeana frequents shady lowland forest up to 900 m altitude.

Genetic resources and breeding

No extensive germplasm collections or breeding programmes for Tectaria are known to exist. In Peninsular Malaysia some small collections are available at the fernarium of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi, Selangor.


Although Tectaria is a large genus little is known about its useful properties. The medicinal and ornamental aspects need more investigation before its prospects can be indicated.


  • Holttum, R.E., 1966. A revised flora of Malaya. 2nd Edition. Vol. 2. Ferns of Malaya. Government Printing Office, Singapore. pp. 501-519.
  • Holttum, R.E., 1991. Tectaria Group. In: Foundation Flora Malesiana (Editor): Flora Malesiana, Series 2: Pteridophyta: Ferns and fern allies. Vol. 2(1). Foundation Flora Malesiana, Leiden, The Netherlands. pp. 39-100.
  • Hsu, F.L. & Chen, J.Y., 1993. Phenolics from Tectaria subtriphylla. Phytochemistry 34(6): 1625-1627.
  • Kramer, K.U., Holttum, R.E., Moran, R.C. & Smith, A.R.,1990. Dennstaedtiaceae. 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.119-122.
  • Lal, B. & Dube, V.P., 1992. A survey of plant ethnomedicine of Amarkantak plateau in central India. Agricultural and Biological Research 8(1): 29-37.
  • Pande, H.C. & Bhaskar, D., 2000. Notes on the ethnomedicinal aspect of some common Pteridophytes of Almora district of Kumaon Himalaya (Uttaranchal). Ethnobotany 12: 56-59.
  • 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. 364-383.


G. Rusea & Norma O. Aguilar