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Tropical Seashores  : Mangrove

Acrostichum speciosum Mangrove fern Paku laut Pteridaceae

 

 Acrostichum speciosum, Mangrove fern, paku laut

 

Acrostichum speciosum

 Acrostichum speciosum, Mangrove fern, paku laut

These ferns are among the few that can tolerate saline soil and grows in the back mangroves. But they cannot tolerate flooding. Besides brackish water, it also grows in freshwater swamps and marshes.
Two species are commonly seen in Sungei Buloh Nature Park.
A. aureum has rounded leaf tips while A. speciosum has pointed leaf tips.
The young leaves are reddish. When older fronds become fertile, the underside of the leaflets at the tip becomes covered with red-brown sporangia.
spore bearing leaflets
Uses: The young shoots can be eaten raw as a salad or cooked (Malay, India, Sri Lanka). The leaves are also used as cattle feed. Older leaves when dried are parchment-like and used as fire-resistant roof thatch (Vietnam and the Pacific). The fibres of old leaves may also be used to make cord.
Traditional medicinal uses: Rhizomes are pounded into a paste and used to treat wounds and boils (Malay). Leaves are used to stop bleeding.
Role in the habitat: Among the first large low-growing plants to grow on the landward side of the mangrove, the fern provides shade for other plants and trees to take root. But on cleared mangroves, it can form impenetrable thickets which prevents other plants from taking root. Thus it is often considered a weed. For animals, these thickets provide safety and shelter. Birds such as the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) make their nests in these thickets.

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