Nephrolepis falcata (Cav.) C. Christens or Nephrolepis falcata cv.
furcans (syn: Nephrolepis biserrata (Sw.) Schott var. furcans,
Aspidium biserratum (Swartz) var. furcans)
Common Name: Fishtail Fern, Fishtail Swordfern, Forked Sword Fern,
Family name: Nephrolepidaceae (also named in Dryopteridaceae and
Plant type: Terrestrial or epiphytic fern, native to New Guinea and
Australia. It is widely cultivated in the tropical and subtropical
regions for its ornamental foliage.
Features: Nephrolepis falcata is an exceptional species of the genus
Nephrolepis Schott, the only one out of about 30 species of this
group of ferns that has forked pinnae tips.
It is reckoned as a cultivar of Nephrolepis biserrata (Giant Sword
Fern) that had escaped cultivation but not considered invasive and
was previously named N. biserrata cv. furcans.
This herbaceous plant produces tufted stipes (10-25 cm long) with
pinnate fronds that are broadly lanceolate (35-120 cm long and 9-11
cm wide) and tapers towards the top but marginally towards the base.
Numerous sessile pinnae with serrated edge are held alternate or
opposite along the rachises that sometimes do fork too. The basal
pinnae are much smaller and distant as compared to the central
pinnae (4.5-6 x 1.5-1.8 cm).
Nephrolepis falcata can be easily identified by its characteristic
undulated pinnae tips that fork 1-3 times, appearing fishtail-like
or falcate (sickle-shaped), hence led to some of its naming.
It has a short erect rhizome that is covered with dark brown
scales, producing long threadlike stolons from which young plants
emerge along its length.
Sori, round-shaped, are borne on the underside of pinnae, along the
Culture (Care): Nephrolepis falcata grows easily with minimal
Light: Bright light or bright filtered sunlight for best growth,
though can tolerate full sun and even light shade to full shade.
Moisture: Medium water requirement. Keep soil moist but not
waterlogged. Loves a humid environment, so mist foliage frequently
if weather is hot and dry.
Soil: Any moist garden soil or potting mix that is free draining and
Others: Pinch off older discolored fronds to maintain tidiness.
Shower the foliage regularly, especially during dry weather to
remove dust, provide humidity and keep it luxuriant. Browning tips
and yellowing fronds are signs of dry air. Feed monthly with a
balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer. No known garden pests or
For subtropical regions: USDA Zone 9a-11. Check at Dave’s Garden for
Propagation: Can be propagated by germination of spores. Learn
how-to here. Another easier method is by removing young plants that
emerge along its creeping stolons and plant them as new plants
directly on ground or in pots filled with gardening soil.
Usage: Fishtail Swordfern makes excellent container plant for
porches, decks and patios or indoors in homes, offices or
greenhouses. Ideal fern for landscaping or grown as ground cover in
garden beds or borders, be it in sunny or shady sites or woodland
garden. It is great in hanging baskets too. Cut fronds are lovely
addition for floral arrangements.
Nephrolepis falcata or N. biserrata ‘Furcans’ is known to have
nutritional use where leaves are boiled and eaten as veggies and
roots pounded to flour. Besides, some fern parts are utilized as
traditional medicine in certain regions for treatment of boils,
sores, wounds, etc. More info here.
Its close relative, Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston Fern) has been
tested and found to be one of the best plants for removing air
pollutants, especially formaldehyde and raising humidity levels.
Does N. falcata or Fishtail Fern do that, I wonder?