Acrostichum aureum: Golden leather fern

Family: Pteridaceae
Common name: Golden leather fern, Swamp fern, Mangrove fern

These large pre-historic looking Golden leather ferns grow near swamps, marshes, salt-water bodies, river banks and mangroves. They can grow to a imposing height of 1.5-2 meters with long stems that arch outwards in the outer edges. Stems towards the center are more upright.

Leaves are dark green, light green or copper-red, and glossy, about 12-15 cms long. Tender leaves are copper-red in color, giving the plant its name Golden leather fern. Once the leaves mature they turn light green with a reddish tinge around the edges and then a dark, glossy green.

Golden leather fern leaves are leathery and thick with smooth margins. Younger leaves have point tips, which becomes rounded off in the older leaves. Some of the mature leaves have sporangia on the lower surface, that help the plant to reproduce vegetatively through spores.

These plants can also produce new plants from root rhizomes, resulting in large clumps of plants in an area. Golden leather ferns like other ferns, do not produce flowers or fruits. Preproduction is always vegetative.

Golden leather ferns are mostly found in tropical regions, with high humidity and warmth. They are tolerant of harsh sunlight, partial shade, heavy rains, pollution and extreme salinity; growing as wild plants near ponds, lakes, canals and streams.

These plants do equally well in fresh water and saline water, sometimes covering entire streams with their large fronds. Thick growth of golden leather ferns sometimes impairs the growth of fishes and other aquatic animals due to lesser sunlight penetrating the water surface.

Though the plant is considered invasive in many parts of the world, they have some medicinal uses in the treatment of sinus problems, fever, chest pain, sore throat, wounds and elephantiasis.

They can be grown in pots in home gardens, or near waterbodies. But always remember that they need high levels of humidity, and can even grow in a completely inundated area. They are very low maintenance and will continue to grow and thrive with almost no extra care.

Propagation is through spores, or root rhizomes.