The species Ceratopteris thalictroides is a fern species belonging
to the genus Ceratopteris, one of only two genera of the
Ceratopteridaceae family. The species represents a special living
form of ferns, and is thus of great botanical interest. The leaf and
stem can also be used medically.
It is commonly known as water sprite, Indian fern, water fern,
Oriental waterfern, and water hornfern. In the Philippines it is
called pakung-sungay (literally 'antler fern' or 'horn fern').
Pan-tropical. Widespread. There are three general types, known as
the north type, the south type, and the third type.
Plants usually rooted in mud, very variable in size and
appearance, scales on rhizome peltate, thin , translucent, pale
brown, (under a lens clear with dark cell walls) stipes 3 – 15 mm
diameter in mature plants, spongy and air filled, sterile fronds
pale green, thin, flaccid and spreading, 4 – 60 cm long, including a
stipe c. half this length, fertile fronds pale green, to brown when
over mature, firm, held erect, 15 – 100 cm or more long, including
stipe to 40 cm long, proliferous or dormant buds with overlapping
dark scales sometimes present in the axils of fertile pinnae (twice
seen), sterile axes obviously winged, pinnae basically broad-ovate
or deltoid with a few blunt lobes, sometimes more deeply incised,
the segments 2 - 15 x 10 – 30 mm, fertile segments linear, 1 - 2 x
10 – 80 mm.
Swampy areas, swamp forests, sago (Metroxylon) swamps, marshes,
natural and man-made ponds, mostly in stagnant water bodies or in
still pockets along slow flowing rivers, full sun to moderate shade,
from sea level to 1300 m, but mostly less than 500 m altitude.
Sometimes massed on or around logs or other floating vegetation,
once recorded in a fresh-water mangrove (Sonneratia) growing among
the finger-like pneumatophores. In some areas Ceratopteris exhibits
a degree of seasonality, reaching maturity and shedding spores
during the dry season; plants have lost nearly all sterile fronds by
this stage. The species has been reported to functionally be an
annual, repopulating from spore the next season, but it is clearly
of indefinite lifespan in cultivation.
Fronds are cooked and eaten as a vegetable in Madagascarand New
Guinea, and raw as a salad in Micronesia. However, the plant is
believed to contain carcinogenic chemicals.
Ceratopteris thalictroides is widely used as an aquarium plant,
and is prized for its versatility, being used both as a floating
plant and a plant that can be rooted in the substrate.
In the Sepik region of New Guinea fronds are used as a personal
It grows best in soil with a pH reading of 5-9 and in very high
amounts of light. It usually grows quickly.
Ceratopteris thalictroides can benefit well (like all aquatic
plants) from the addition of CO2. The plants reproductive technique
is similar to other ferns; small plantlets are grown on the mother
plant and are then released when ready.
It can provide useful shade to shyer fish and small fry. The
dense roots are said to take nutrients out of the water helping to
prevent the growth of algae.