The tree ferns are the ferns
that grow with a trunk elevating the fronds
above ground level. Most tree ferns are members of the "core tree ferns", belonging to the families Dicksoniaceae
, and Cibotiaceae
in the order Cyatheales
. This order is the third group of ferns known to have given rise to tree-like forms. The two others are the Marattiales
, a eusporangiate
order that the extinct Psaronius
evolved from, and the order Polypodiales
where the extinct genus Tempskya
Fern Tree is a medium-sized tree, native to the Western Ghats. Leaves are pinnate, leaflets 6-8 pair, smooth, shining, opposite or some alternate, stalkless, linear oblong, 4-6 inches long, with a prominent midrib. Leaf spine has a leafy wing on either side between the leaflets. Flowers are small, numerous, unisexual, in erect narrow panicles, 6-8 inches long, in leaf axils. Sepals are narrow, smooth, persistent. Petals in male flowers as long as sepals, in female small. Disk is very hairy. Drupe is ovoid, 0.5 inch in diameter, purple shining.
The fronds of tree ferns are usually very large and multiple-pinnate
. Their trunk is actually a vertical and modified rhizome
, and woody
tissue is absent. To add strength, there are deposits of lignin
in the cell walls and the lower part of the stem is reinforced with thick, interlocking mats of tiny roots.
The decoction of the plant is used in typhoid fever and is also used as an anthelmintic, pectoral, expectorant, tonic, dyspepsia and astringent. Fronds are useful in poulticing swellings16. Powdered stem dissolved in water is used for enema during stomach disorders in children.
Tree-ferns have been cultivated for their beauty alone; a few, however, were of some economic application, chiefly as sources of starch.