Ferns of Fiji
Ferns and Fern Allies are amongst the most abundant primitive group is of vascular plants, pre-dating the ages of the dinosaurs. They have successfully diversified and continue to persist and inhabit any relatively wet areas of any forest system on both continental landmass and island complexes.
Fiji Islands has 301 species of ferns represented in 27 as with 90 genera.The majority (66%) of species are native 30% endemic.The remaining 4% are exotic and most were introduced as ornamental.
As those listed below are few of the more common and widely distributed native fern species of Fiji.
Balabala is the generic term for all tree that occur in Fiji. Cyothea lunulata is one of the nine species in the genus s typically common and indicative highly disturbed forest system, paticularly that of a rainforest. On occasions, this terrestrial tree fern can up to 20m tall but it is often observed at heights between 8-1 Om.With its tri-pinnate fronds growing up in length and its greenish to black primary branch that maybe smooth or rough with copious scales that is pale and thin with marginal hair like growth, this species can readily be observed from any coastal front to the upland rest system. Its medicinal properties are also well known amongst the people of Beqa as it apparently is a popular remedy alleviating sore throats. Locals also use the trunk scales to billows and cushions in addition to its use in buildings and flower pots.The distribution range of this species includes Solomon Islands to Vanuatu, New Caledonia,Tonga, Samoa be Caroline and Mariana Islands.
Locally known as the “bird’s nest”, this as is common and is widely outed in all forested areas. Of the species that are found in Fiji, A australasicum is first and foremost perhaps familiar to most because of its rosette of spreading fronds that facilitates the trapping and decomposition of humus from plants in the upper canopy. So together with its mass of roots form an effective water holding sponge for many micro-organisms. Interestingly enough a native species of earthworm and even a skink is known to live in this mass. In either its epiphytic or terrestrial growth forms, this species flourishes well in any light exposed area.
Known to locals generally as ota or more specifically lalabe, D. proliferum is a large terrestrial fern. It is usually found along or near stream banks but never in very shaded areas. Of the seven species occurring in Fiji, D. proliferum is distinct in that the fronds is simply pinnate with spiny stipe and veins with at least the basal pair united. D. proliferum is unique in the degree of lobbing of its pinnae is quite variable. Amongst the locals, the young frond of this species is a well known local vegetable delicacy.This species is also known to occur in Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea,Australia,Asia and Africa.
A scandent ground fern common in lowland areas locally known as diqidiqi. Of the 4 species occurring in Fiji, it is the only species with an epiphytic and terrestrial form. As an epiphyte, it is recognized by its dark green pendant fronds on tree trunks but in its terrestrial form, the erect fronds have a yellow green shade with relatively wider pinnae. In any case, this species is distinguishable by its scaly roots and 5 fronds that grow up to 1 m long and 20cm wide but more notably, that the sori occurs at much closer proximity to the rachis than all the other 3 species. Traditionally, it has been singled out that the infusion of its leaves with that of kalabuci (Acalypha spp.) eases delivery during pregnancy.This species is widely distributed throughout the tropics.