Gen. fil.: 144 (1947).
2n = 72
Hemionitis prolifera Retz. (1791), Goniopteris prolifera (Retz.) C.Presl (1836), Ampelopteris elegans Kunze (1848).
Origin and geographic distribution
Ampelopteris prolifera is widely distributed in the Old World tropics, in Africa and tropical mainland Asia to north-eastern Australia and New Caledonia. In Africa it is known from Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon and a large area in the east and south-east, from Tanzania south to Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and eastern South Africa, but it probably occurs in many other regions as well. It is also found in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands.
Although not often collected, young fronds of this fern are eaten as a fresh or cooked vegetable in India, where they are considered inferior to Diplazium fronds, which are more commonly eaten. They are laxative. In Tanzania, the leaf-sap is drunk in a mixture with Hypoestes aristata (Vahl) Sol. ex Roem. & Schult. to treat meningitis and encephalitis. Ampelopteris prolifera is also used in traditional medicine in India. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
A leaf extract of Ampelopteris prolifera showed antiviral activity against cucumber mosaic virus in Chenopodium amaranticolor Coste & Reyn.
Large, scrambling (up to 4 m long) herb with proliferous buds scattered along the rachis of fronds, developing into new plants; rhizome short-creeping, 410 mm in diameter. Leaves closely spaced, arching; petiole 1250 cm long, pale brown, glabrous; lamina narrowly lanceolate to narrowly elliptical, 27150 cm ื 926 cm, pinnate, apex indeterminate, papery, both surfaces glabrous; pinnae numerous, the basal pairs distant, the distal ones more closely spaced and smaller, oblong, 1015(20) cm ื 1.52 cm, base truncate to subcordate, subsessile, apex acute to acuminate, margin crenate; fronds from plants formed by proliferation on buds much smaller. Sori circular to elongate, 412 on each side of the pinna lobe, without indusium, with orange capitate paraphyses, at maturity uniting with adjacent sori. Spores closely and irregularly spinulose. Fern specialists disagree about the delimitation of genera within the large family Thelypteridaceae. As a result, the species treated here is found in the literature under a great variety of names; besides those already mentioned it has also been named in the genera Cyclosorus, Dryopteris, Meniscium, Phegopteris, Polypodium and Thelypteris. Sometimes the monotypic genus Ampelopteris is considered as a subgenus of the large genera Cyclosorus or Dryopteris.
The plants are usually sterile. The sori are produced particularly during dry periods. The freely proliferating buds result in effective local dispersal. It has been suggested that the plant spreads along river systems by flood waters breaking off fronds and depositing them on banks further downstream.
Ampelopteris prolifera grows mostly in full sunlight and is often found scrambling amongst tall grasses, sedges or shrubs in freshwater swamps, or beside rivers, ponds and lakes, up to 1250 m altitude. It requires permanent moisture; the rhizome is often found growing in water.
Fronds of Ampelopteris prolifera are probably only collected from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
Neither collections nor breeding programmes are known for Ampelopteris prolifera. Since it is widespread and rather common, it is not liable to genetic erosion.
Ampelopteris prolifera may have prospects as a vegetable in Africa. There is a need for research into the nutritional value of the leaves and cultivation requirements of the fern as a vegetable crop. Propagation of the fern should not present too many problems because the proliferous buds make vegetative propagation easy.
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Correct citation of this article:
de Winter, W., 2002. Ampelopteris prolifera (Retz.) Copel.. Record from Protabase. Oyen, L.P.A. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources v้g้tales de lAfrique tropicale), Wageningen, the Netherlands.