Cyclosorus interruptus: Hottentot fern

Family: Thelypteridaceae
Common name: Hottentot fern, Swamp shield-fern, Swamp cyclosorus, Willdenow’s maiden fern, Spready tri-vein fern, Willdenow’s fern, Neke

A wild fern that looks so good and grows really fast, Hottentot ferns can be grown in gardens easily, provided there is good humidity. These old-world plants can grow to a height of 1 meter with long fan-like fronds having pinnate leaves with 10-25 pairs of pinnae, longer ones towards the base and shorter ones towards the tip.

Each plant has 20-50 long leaves or stipes, making the plant look bushy and rounded. Hottentot ferns produce root rhizomes which are thin, brown or black in color, and covered with scales.

These root rhizomes grow and produce numerous small plants around the parent plant, helping Hottentot ferns spread quickly over large areas.

Leaves are slightly lobed having small pointy tips, that makes them very pretty. Like in most ferns, the tips of leaves are curled, opening up gently as the leaf matures.

Younger leaves are light green in color, turning dark green as they mature. Mature leaves have sori along the lower surface, that contain spores necessary for vegetative reproduction. Sores travel in the wind, and germinate when they land on viable surfaces, helping the fern take over new areas.

They usually grow in wet marshes, swamps or by the side of waterbodies. Make sure you keep them moist if they are grown in gardens. Ferns do well in areas with less sunlight and more humidity – beside small water bodies, artificial waterfalls or ponds.

Hottentot ferns will not do well indoors as they need good sunlight to grow and reproduce.

Hottentot ferns have some practical and medicinal uses. The fronds are used to create head pads to carry loads in some African countries. Leaves are used as a substitute for sponge or soap while bathing. They are also used in the treatment of liver diseases, gonorrhoea, sores, cough, malaria and burns.

Propagation is through spores or rhizomes.