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Stenochlaena tenuifolia (Desv.) T.Moore

Gard. Chron.: 193 (1856).
Lomaria tenuifolia Desv. (1811), Lomariopsis tenuifolia (Desv.) H.Christ (1897), Stenochlaena mildbraedii Brause (1915).
Vernacular names
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.
Major references
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 pp.
• Bredenkamp, B.V., 1986. Subtropical ferns do not restrict the growth of pines. South African Forestry Journal 136: 37–38.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• Perrier de la Bathie, H., 1936. Biogéographie des plantes de Madagascar. Société d’Editions Géographiques, Paris, France. 156 pp.
• Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E., 1970. Blechnaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Launert, E. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Pteridophyta. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 235–242.
Other references
• Ahmad Faiz, M.A., 1992. Control of Stenochlaena palustris under rubber. Planters’ Bulletin, Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia 212–213: 94–98.
• Alston, A.H.G., 1959. The ferns and fern-allies of West Tropical Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 89 pp.
• Dedy Darnaedi & Titien Ngatinem Praptosuwiryo, 2003. Stenochlaena palustris (Burm.f.) Bedd. In: de Winter, W.P. & Amoroso, V.B. (Editors). Plant Resources of South East Asia No 15(2). Cryptogams: ferns and fern allies. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 186–188.
• Klekowski, E.J., 1970. Evidence against self-incompatibility and for genetic lethals in the fern Stenochlaena tenuifolia (Desv.) Moore. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 63: 171–176.
• Leist, N., 1975. Die Entwicklungsgeschichte der Blattnervatur beim Farn Stenochlaena tenuifolia (Blechnaceae). Plant Systematics and Evolution 124(3): 213–228.
• Liu, H., Orjala, J., Sticher, O., Rali, T. & Liu, H.M., 1999. Acylated flavonol glycosides from leaves of Stenochlaena palustris. Journal of Natural Products 62(1): 70–75.
• Scheepers, J.C. & Vorster, P., 1976. Notes on African plants: Blechnaceae. First record of Stenochlaena tenuifolia (Desv.) Moore for the Transvaal. Bothalia 12(1): 57.
• Verdcourt, B., 1992. A note on Stenochlaena (Pteridophyta: Blechnaceae) in Africa. Kew Bulletin 47(1): 128.
• Williams, R.O., 1949. The useful and ornamental plants in Zanzibar and Pemba. Zanzibar, Tanzania. 497 pp.
W.J. van der Burg
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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.