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Incl. Dicranopteridaceae

Terrestrial ferns, often scrambling and thicket-forming, rhizome long-creeping, underground, evenly or unevenly dichotomous, nearly always protostelic, apex bearing peltate fringed scales or branched multicellular hairs. Fronds long-stipitate, mostly branched in a pseudodichotomous manner with a periodically dormant apical bud, such branching may be repeated for several orders, the ultimate branch either deeply pinnatifid or deeply bi-pinnatifid almost to the costa, veins free to the margin, arranged pinnately in each segment, simple, once- or several-times forked. Sori borne on the surface of a vein, usually the acroscopic branch, generally of 2-25 sporangia, exindsiate, but sometimes with hairs of scales, annulus complete, oblique; spores monolete or trilete, smooth, colourless.


A family of 5 genera, considered to be only 2 by some authors, encompassing c. 160 species. In Papuasia four genera represent c. 25 species.


Copeland, E.B. 1941. Gleicheniaceae of New Guinea. Philip. J. Sci. 75: 347 - 361.

Holttum, R.E. 1957. Morphology, growth habit and classification in the Gleicheniaceae. Phytomorphology 7: 168 - 184.

Holttum, R.E. 1957. On the taxonomic subdivision of the Gleicheniaceae with descriptions of new Malesian species and varieties. Reinwardtia 4: 257 - 280.

Holttum, R.E. 1959. Gleicheniaceae. F1. Males. ser. 2, 1: 1 - 36.

Nakai, T. 1950. A new classification of the Gleicheniales. Bull. Nat. Sci. Mus. Tokyo 31: 1 - 71.

Genera in Australia and Papuasia


Rhizomes and resting apices of fronds bearing multicellular hairs which are branched at the base; veins always at least twice forked

Dicranopteris (1, 6 vars.)

Rhizomes and resting apices of fronds bearing flat scales, the rest of the frond usually bearing stellate hairs; veins simple or once forked



Ultimate branches pinnate-pinnatifid


Ultimate branches once-pinnatifid

Sticherus (c. 12)


Ultimate segments of lamina not much longer than wide, one sorus on each segment

Gleichenia (3)

Ultimate segments of lamina elongate, several sori on each segment

Diplopterygium (7)


Some authors (e.g. Holttum 1957, 1959) prefer to place Gleichenia, Sticherus and Diplopterygium as separate subgenera of an enlarged genus Gleichenia and others include Dicranopteris as well (but this practice is less common). The separate genera are maintained here primarily because they are of vastly different appearance and can be easily identified, even at a distance; there are no cases where placement in a particular genus is equivocal. This distinction is supported by cytological and phytochemical evidence.

The Australian endemic genus Platyzoma and the New Caledonian endemic genus Stromatopteris are sometimes included in Gleicheniaceae. Based on morphological and cytological evidence, modern practice is to assign them to their own families, Platyzomataceae and Stromatopteridaceae respectively.

Updated November 1999 by Jim Croft (