Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Gard. Chron.: 193 (1856).
Lomaria tenuifolia Desv. (1811), Lomariopsis tenuifolia (Desv.) H.Christ (1897), Stenochlaena mildbraedii Brause (1915).
African climbing fern, giant vine fern (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Stenochlaena tenuifolia occurs naturally in the coastal regions of East and southern Africa, from Tanzania to the east coast of South Africa, and Madagascar. It is also recorded from eastern Zimbabwe. Stenochlaena mildbraedii, which is regarded as conspecific with Stenochlaena tenuifolia, is present in Bioko (Equatorial Guinea), and from Cameroon to Angola and Uganda. Stenochlaena tenuifolia has been introduced into the United States (Florida).
The young fronds (croziers, fiddleheads) are eaten in Madagascar. Stenochlaena tenuifolia can be used as ground cover. In Congo the sap is taken with a ripe banana as an aphrodisiac.
No studies of the chemical constituents of Stenochlaena tenuifolia are known. A number of glycosides have been isolated from the leaves of the related Stenochlaena palustris (Burm.f.) Bedd., which is used as a vegetable in South-East Asia; plants from Papua New Guinea contained five flavonol glycosides (stenopalustrosides A–E) as well as a cerebroside, and several kaempferols. No alkaloids were found. The stenopalustrosides A–D showed significant activity against gram-positive bacteria.
Large fern with straggling and climbing rhizome, growing high up into trees; rhizome scales sparse. Leaves up to 1.8 m long, shiny bright green, leathery, dimorphic, with pinnate sterile leaves up to 1 m long and pinnate or bipinnate fertile leaves; sterile pinnae up to about 20 pairs, up to 27 cm × 3 cm, linear, articulate with basal glands, with sharply serrate margins; fertile pinnae up to 25 cm long, divided into narrowly linear segments up to 8 cm × 0.2 cm, almost entirely covered with sporangia below. Spores reniform, colourless, monolete, with several (mostly 3) irregular raised ribs, about 40 μm × 30 μm.
Stenochlaena, which comprises 5 species and is restricted to the Old World, has been placed in a number of genera and families in the past. It seems to have affinities with Lomariopsis (Lomariopsidaceae). Stenochlaena mildbraedii has been regarded a second representative of the genus in Africa. It is distinguished by its pinnate fertile leaves as compared to the bipinnate fertile leaves of Stenochlaena tenuifolia. However, several authors have noticed the presence of both forms in a single collection (although it could not be established with certainty whether these parts originated from one individual). Electron microscope studies of the spores of the two leaf types confirmed that they are identical.
Stenochlaena tenuifolia is a straggling and climbing fern of the coastal swamp forest.
No cultivation of Stenochlaena tenuifolia is known, except for its use as ground cover. It does not seem to be as much of a weed as Stenochlaena palustris in South-East Asia, for which various studies have been carried out to control it, for instance in rubber plantations. In the United States Stenochlaena tenuifolia is regarded as a weed. A study in Zululand, however, indicated that it had no measurable effect on the volume growth of Pinus elliottii Engelm.
Genetic resources and breeding
Stenochlaena tenuifolia does not seem to be endangered. No germplasm collections are known.
Although Stenochlaena tenuifolia is not as widely used as a vegetable as its sister-species Stenochlaena palustris, it may well be of interest. Further investigations of its cultivation, nutritional value and bactericidal properties seem justified.
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Correct citation of this article:
van der Burg, W.J., 2004. Stenochlaena tenuifolia (Desv.) T.Moore In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.