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Economic importance of Pteridophytes

Economic importance of Pteridophytes

Indian Fern Journal 16(1-2): 130-152

ISSN/ISBN: 0970-2741

Pteridophytes, the seedless vascular cryptogams which occupy a position between the lower non-seed bearing and higher seed bearing plants form a generally much neglected group of plants as far as their economic value is concerned. But the ethnobotanical uses of this unique group are very many. It is right that, though not all, but many species of ferns and fern-allies are of immense economic utility, which is manifold. The most important are their aesthetic, food and medicinal values. Young leaves of the ferns Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw., Helminthostachys zeylanica (L.) Hook., Nephrolepis cordifolia (L.) Presl and Stenochlaena palustris (Burm.) Bedd. are cooked as vegetables by the tribals in Indian mountains. Azolla pinnata R. Br. is usd as rice fertilizer and chicken feed. In the case of water fern Marsilea drummondii the starchy paste of the sporocarps is made in to cakes called "Nardoo" and is eaten by the natives of Australia. The spores of the club moss Lycopodium Linn. are rich in fat and those of L. clavatum L. contain 50% oleic glyceride. These are used in pharmacy as water repellent and protective dusting powder for tender skin. Selaginella bryopteris (L.) Bak. and S. adunca A. Br. ex Hieron are markedly xerophytic and have got extraordinary powers of recovery after prolonged drought, these are sold as curiosities under the name, "resurrection plants". Members of the genus Equisetum Linn., 'the horse-tails' or the 'scouring rushes' as they are called were once much used for polishing woods and scouring utensils. E. arvense Linn. indicates special affinity for gold and is generally known as 'gold indicator', where it grows. Therefore, such species are of importance in prospecting for new ore deposits. The leaves of the lindsaeoid fern Sphenomeris chinensis (Linn.) Maxon are used to produce red dye. Similarly the rhizomes of the 'bracken fern' Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn are used for producing dark yellow dye. Fibres obtained from some ferns as Osmunda Linn. and Cibotium Kaulf. are used for making mats, baskets and stuffing and packing materials. Certain ferns as Angiopteris evecta (Forst.) Hoffm., Adiantum capillus-veneris Linn., Polypodium phymatodes Linn. and P. vulgare Linn. are used for fragrance and flavourings. Tree ferns are used as timber in some countries. Ferns, the flowerless plants have got great aesthetiic value due to their grace and delicate beauty and are cultivated as ornamental plants. The ferns can grow well in such moist and shady situations in the gardens where other plants generally can not grow. Ferns which are generally grown in the gardens and houses as potted plants for aesthetic purposes are Equisetum diffusum D. Don, Angiopteris evecta (Frost.) Hoffm., Osmuda regalis Linn., Microsorum punctatum (L.) Copel., Lygodium flexuosum (L.) Sw., Pteris vittata Linn., Adiantum cupillus-veneris Linn., A. incisum Frosk., Cyathea spinulosa Wall. ex. Hook., Ampelopteris prolifera (Retz.) Copel., Christella dentata (Frosk.) Browns, and Jermy, Pronephrium nudatum (Roxb. ex. Grif.) Holtt., Asplenium nidus Linn., Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw., Tectaria macrodonta (Fee) C. Chr., Nephrolepis cordifolia (L.) Presl, N. exaltata (L.) Schott., Azolla pinnata R. Br., Salvinia natans (L.) All., etc. Quite a number of ferns and fern allies are of great medicinal value, amongst them mention may be made of Equisetum arvense Linn. which is used in nasal polypus and kidney infections, ashes useful in acidity. E. debile Roxb. is diuretic and given in gonorrhoea. Lycopodium clavatum Linn., in the form of decoction used in rheumatism and diseases of lungs and kidneys. The paste of the leaves of Ophioglossum reticulatum Linn., is used in headache. Botrychium virginianum Sw. is used in dysentery. Helminthostachys zeylanica (Linn.) Hook. is used for vitality and brain tonic. Lygodium flexuosum (Linn.) Sw., is expectorant and used in ulcers, cutwounds and sprains. The fronds of the gleicheniaceous fern Dicranopteris linearis (Burm.) Underwood are used for ashtma and in woman's sterility. The plants of the 'royal fern' Osmunda regalis Linn. are styptic and tonic. The rhizomes of Angiopteris evecta (Forst.) Hoffm. are used for scabies. There are many other ferns which are of immense medicinal value and are discussed.

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