Ferns and Man in New Guinea
[ based on a paper presented to Papua New Guinea Botany Society, 1982 ]
Ferns important to man in New Guinea
Ferns as food
- Starches - Greens - Condiments, Flavourings
Ferns as medicine
- Fractures - Boils, ulcers, wounds - Fevers, headaches, colds, etc.
- Stomach pains - Menstruation, childbirth, contraception - Diseases
Ferns as handicraft and construction material
Ferns as fibre
Ferns as abrasives
Ferns as decoration and ritual items
Ferns as weeds
- Ferns and their allies used by or affecting man in Papuasia
The Pteridophytes, or the ferns and their allies, are thought by most people to be quite useless members of the Plant Kingdom, or at best they are considered to be of limited horticultural importance, fads that climaxed in the Victorian era about a century ago and now the exclusive domain of dilettante collectors, botanists and other anachronisms. No vast fortunes are to be made from the culture of any of the species, and the only time the general population is likely to take notice is when a fern becomes an aggressive and successful weed.
The deleterious effects of rapid fern growth are well publicised, but their useful aspects are largely ignored. However, in agricultural societies, especially those using the forests directly, like most in New Guinea, the value of ferns is more keenly appreciated. Ferns are found to provide food, medicine (sometimes of dubious value), fibre, craft and building material, abrasives and of course decoration. In gardens and plantations many species are known as competitive weeds and in the forests and clearings obstructive species often block the way. A survey of literature and specimens reveals that there are no fewer than 90 species in 42 genera that affect man in one way or another.
A review of the uses of Pteridophytes throughout the world listing about 150 different situations in which fern species have been used was published by May (1978). Unfortunately, this review does not deal specifically with New Guinea and does not take into account much of the anthropological literature that has been published concerning New Guinea over the years, nor the information contained among the field notes of some of the New Guinea collections.
Powell (1976b) provides a detailed summary of the ethnobotany of New Guinea and lists many references to pteridophytes; unfortunately most of these records have been extracted from anthropological literature and are based on unreliable or incomplete identification. Thus, often all that can be said is that a fern of uncertain identity was used for a particular purpose. Nevertheless, these and similar records have been included in the present review so that future investigations might reveal the identity of the species involved.
The present review is based on personal observation throughout Papua New Guinea, information contained in specimens in the Papua New Guinea National Herbarium (Herb. LAE), and on the botanical and anthropological literature available at LAE.
The review is in two parts: firstly, a list of the ethnobotanic uses
or affects of ferns in New Guinea with notes on the species involved and,
secondly, as Appendix I, an alphabetic list of the species that are used
by man or that affect him directly or indirectly. Comparisons are made
with the relationships to man in other regions of these or similar species.
There are three types of fern food available in New Guinea: starches, greens, and additives.
- Starches: In the past fern starch has been obtained from the
pulpy apical part of the caudex of certain species of tree-ferns (Cyathea)
and from the fleshy caudex and stipe bases of the giant ferns, Angiopteris
and Marattia. This is considered as starvation food these days,
as the starch content is not very high and the resultant meal is not particularly
In northern Australia, the aboriginals in the past prepared starch from two fern sources. The rhizome of Blechnum indicum ("bungwall") was washed, roasted and then either ground or pounded between two stones depending on the custom of the area, the sclerotic leaf and root traces were removed and the resultant "flour" was made into a kind of unleavened bread (Bancroft 1894; Colliver & Woolston 1975; Kaminga 1981); sometimes the flour may be moistened with water and eaten (Specht 1958). Another Australian swamp fern, Marsilea drummondii ("nardoo") produces large sporocarps or fruiting bodies at the base of the clover-like fronds. These sporocarps are similarly ground into a paste from which a form of bread is prepared.
Blechnum indicum does not occur in New Guinea, and although there are many other species of Blechnum occurring in abundance in certain areas, none of them have been reported as a source of food. However, on Frederik-Hendrik Island in the southeast corner of west New Guinea, a flour is reported to be extracted from the roots of a fern identified as Nephrolepis biserrata (Powell 1976b). It is hard to imagine substantial quantities of starch in the roots of this species, and it may be that it has been confused with a superficially similar species of Blechnum. In the central highlands the roots of Pteris moluccana yield a flour (Powell 1976b).
Marsilea crenata is the only species of Marsilea recorded from New Guinea and is so far known only from the swampy savannas of Papua; its occurrence is so sporadic and the production of sporocarps so slight that the use of this plant as food would be impractical, even if it is edible.
Greens: Fern greens, on the other hand, are much more widely used and often form a significant part of the diet. Bundles of freshly uncurled fronds of Diplazium (mostly D. esculentum), but other species of Diplazium as well), and Pneumatopteris sogerensis can regularly be seen for sale at most lowland markets. Young fronds of various species of Cyathea can be seen as well, but this is more common in the highlands. In certain lowland areas (eg. Manus, Lake Kutubu), the tips of the uncurling fronds of the climbing fern Stenochlaena palustris are eaten. Powell (1976b) reports the use of Asplenium affine and another unidentified species of Asplenium as a wild food supplement from the Watut Valley and the eastern highlands, young fronds of Blechnum from Wissel Lake, Dennstaedtia from several areas of New Guinea and New Britain, Gleichenia from the highlands, Dryopteris arbuscula and D. sparsa from the Watut Valley and eastern highlands, Microsorium commutatum, M. irioides and M. linguaeforme from the same area, Pteris moluccana from the central highlands, Selaginella opaca from the Chimbu and Diplazium cordifolium from the central highlands. The fronds of the edible ferns are picked after the crosier has uncurled and before the frond has started to harden up (the older fronds are more bitter). The fronds are boiled, separately or with coconut milk, sometimes cooked with sweet potato, taro, banana or other starch; they taste not unlike any other boiled green. They are used especially during feasts and pig killing rituals.
Fern fronds are often used in cooking to wrap other items such as meat or starchy tubers, especially when cooked in earthen ovens.
In 1972 Greg Leach (pers. comm., specimens in Herb. LAE, Leach in press) made detailed collections of the food plants of the people of the Sepik River, including the following ferns used as green vegetables: Pneumatopteris sogerensis, Lomagramma sinuata, Stenochlaena palustris, Orthiopteris sp., Nephrolepis biserrata, Helminthostachys zeylanica, Microlepia speluncae, Athyrium (?=Diplazium sp.) and Sphaerostephanos sp. Lomagramma sinuata is also consumed as a green in New Ireland (Bruce French: pers. comm.).
Copeland (1942, & Collado 1936) notes how widely Diplazium esculentum is eaten in the Philippines and in Malaya. He also mentions the use of other species of Diplazium as edible greens (apparently not as palatable as Diplazium esculentum) as well as Ceratopteris and Helminthostachys. Both of the latter are widespread in New Guinea, but there are no published records of Ceratopteris being used as food and Helminthostachys seems to be infrequently used, due perhaps to its infrequent occurrence in most areas. Ceratopteris may be commonly eaten in the Bismarck Archipelago: Bob Johns (pers. comm.) reports the practice from New Ireland and Bruce French (pers. comm.) reports it from New Britain. Copeland also refers to Pteridium esculentum, describing it as a food fern from Polynesia, but although there is a species of Pteridium in the highland and lowland areas of New Guinea it appears not to be eaten.
Condiments, Flavourings: In the inland areas of New Guinea, where common salt is not readily available, a salt has been prepared from the residual ash of a species of Asplenium, A. acrobryum (Croft & Leach 1984). In the past this strap-like plant has been misidentified as the bird's nest fern Asplenium nidus (Freund et al. 1965, Jermy & Sayers 1967, Powell 1976b), from which it differs in habit (basically climbing) and structure (no intramarginal vein, apical proliferating bud, etc.). The ash is sprinkled on the cooked food prior to eating. In parts of the eastern highlands the salts obtained from the fronds are mixed with water and drunk (Hays 1974, 1980). The composition of this salt has been analysed by David Leach of the University of Papua New Guinea and was found to be higher in Potassium than common salt, like most other vegetable salts (cf. Freund et al. 1965).
This is a very nebulous aspect of the way ferns affect man. While it cannot be denied that the species are (or have been) used in the manner described, it is most likely that the effects, if any, are psychological rather than physiological. Nevertheless, such information should be recorded, even though it may be unreliably based on superstitution, misconception, fraud or charlatanism, because in some cases the plants are found to contain active substances that affect the body, although not necessarily in the manner claimed.
A review of the medicinal uses of all plants in New Guinea (Holdsworth 1977) contained only nine species of pteridophytes, most if not all of them of dubious value. The fronds are taken internally or applied externally, or the roots or stems are taken internally. Those applied externally are almost certainly only a placebo as any other pile of green leaves could be expected to have the same effect.
- Fractures: Scheifenhovel (1970) reported that in the southern
highlands of Papua New Guinea the fronds of the giant fleshy terrestrial
fern, Angiopteris evecta was bound onto the fractured limb.
Boils, ulcers, wounds: In east New Britain, Futscher (1959) reports Gleichenia linearis (=Dicranopteris linearis) being bound externally onto wounds. On Bougainville, Blackwood (1935) reports the leaves of Pteris ensiformis and Aspidium latifolium (=Pronephrium menisciicarpon, but possibly a species of Tectaria) and the leaves and roots of Dryopteris milneana being applied to boils, ulcers and arrow wounds. The last two species are probably misidentified. Holdsworth (1980) gives a review of Blackwood's medicinal plant results. In the Northern Province a species of Athyrium (?=Diplazium) is used to treat sores and in New Britain a poultice of boiled fronds of a species of Cyclosorus is used for the same purpose (Powell 1976b). Hot fronds of a species of Polystichum are applied to groin swellings in the Mt Hagen area (Powell 1976b). In Morobe Province, a poultice is prepared from Pityrogramma calomelanos for an unspecified purpose (field note information).
Fevers, headaches, colds, etc.: Blackwood (1935) mentions that in Bougainville, Selaginella flabellata is used to control feverish headaches and menstruation. The leaves are applied externally and the roots taken internally. In the Mt Hagen area the petiole sap of the common bracken Pteridium aquilinum is used to treat toothache and mouth infections (Powell 1976b). For colds Cyclosorus leaves are used in the Northern Province and for nasal infections the smoke of a species of Polypodium (=?) is inhaled in Mt Hagen (Powell 1976b).
Stomach pains: Holdsworth & Giheno (1975) record that a species of Lycopodium is chewed in the central highlands to induce vomiting after food poisoning or acute stomach pains and they note that Lycopodium clavatum (which is common throughout New Guinea) is used in the Philippines as a emetic (Quisumbing 1951). For stomach ache and diarrhoea, in the eastern highlands they report the chewing of fresh fronds of Lygodium longifolium with ash salt (? from Asplenium acrobryum or from the grass Coix gigantea).
Menstruation, childbirth, contraception: Pteris tripartita is used in childbirth in Bougainville, the fronds being taken internally. Pteris ensiformis is used to control menstruation, as is Selaginella flabellata. Lygodium dichotomum is used as a contraceptive, the root and stem being taken internally; it is also used to treat children's illnesses (Blackwood 1935). Peekel (1910) records a species of Dryopteris (most likely to be a species of Thelypteridaceae) being used in New Ireland as an abortifacient (Holdsworth, Hurley & Rayner 1979), however he does not mention the species in his illustrated flora of the island (Peekel in press, ms. completed c. 1947). In the Koiari area of the central province of Papua New Guinea Holdsworth et al. (1980b) note that total sterility in women can be achieved by eating the new leaves of Blechnum orientale each day for three successive days, waiting a fortnight and then repeating the treatment.
Diseases: Holdsworth (1974) reports that on Dobu Island in the D'Entrecasteaux Archipelago, a sorcerer claims to cure leprosy with a draught prepared by shaking the crushed leaf of a species of Lygodium in water.
In the highlands of New Guinea the common grassland tree ferns at middle altitudes (Cyathea magna, C. angiensis, C. contaminans) are used as picket fences for gardens and as posts on which huts are built. These tree ferns are very common in the grasslands and in disturbed areas such as abandoned garden sites. After the fern dies the pulpy pith collapses but the sclerotic strands are very strongly developed and in the lower half at least the trunk is covered with a dense fibrous sheath of tightly interlocking sclerotic roots which provides substantial support for the trunk which commonly attains heights of over 5 m. The structural elements of the tree fern trunks are very durable, even in permanent contact with the ground, being immune from attack from nearly all decay-causing organisms. For fences the trunks are planted upside down, next to each other in a row, and lashed together to form a pallisade to keep out pigs. For house posts the trunks are also planted upside down and then a deep notch is cut in the wider fibrous end to receive the floor joists. The fibrous bases of the trunks are sometimes incorporated in the house ridge poles or centre poles so that they extend out from the roof; they are then decorated with various species of ferns or orchids. Less commonly they are carved with designs or faces.
The scrambling climber Lygodium is used throughout the lowland regions of New Guinea as a binding and lashing twine. All species of the genus have an elongate climbing rachis that has the capacity for indefinite growth often reaching lengths of several metres. It is of uniform diameter and extremely tough, wiry and durable. All species would be suitable for binding but the most common and widely used is Lygodium circinnatum. In coastal areas, in the absence of commercial synthetic rope, it is used for the tying of floats to outriggers and other lashing requirements on canoes. However, the best known use of Lygodium stems is in the finely woven basket ware, originally from the Bougainville area and known as "Buka baskets", a technique now copied in many parts of the country.
In the central highlands the stems of Cyclosorus and Dicranopteris are used for lashings on houses and those of Gleichenia brassii are used for heavy lashing such as on pig fences (Powell 1976b).
The other type of fern-fibre is the fibrous root-encrusted trunks of tree ferns. The trunks with larger amounts of fibre are harvested, planted upside down in decorative gardens (mostly in the urban areas) and used as a substrate for certain types of epiphytic ferns and orchids. Often the fibre is cut off in slabs to be used for a similar purpose; the crushed fibre is also used as a growing medium. In some countries there is a regular industry established around the supply of tree fern fibre to horticulturists but in New Guinea this has not happened yet. In New Zealand a small, cottage-scale industry has developed around the production of lamp stands and bases turned from the trunks of Cyathea on a wood lathe; the turning reveals the intricate interwoven design of the dark structural material of the trunk and leaf gaps. This is an industry that would lend itself to village communities in Papuasia, but has not yet been introduced.
Throughout New Guinea the scouring rush Equisetum debile is used to clean cooking and eating utensils. The stems of this plant accumulate crystals of silica and the fine abrasive action of these crystals make it a useful cleaning agent. The sandpaper-like qualities of Equisetum lead to its use in shaping and smoothing tools, ornaments and weapons. This has been noted by Powell (1976) in the southern highlands and by Hide (1974, spec in LAE) in the eastern highlands.
In New Guinea ferns are used to decorate both houses and grounds, and bodies for ceremonial purposes.
In the central highlands of Papua New Guinea it is quite common for the basket-like clumps of the epiphytic fern Drynaria rigidula to be impaled on a wooden spike arising from the centre or end of the thatch roof. Unintentional decoration occurs in the wetter areas at middle altitudes where the thatch roofs support a luxurious crop of such ferns as Belvisia mucronata, Microsorium cromwellii, Selliguea ? werneri, etc. and assorted mosses.
In urban gardens ornamental ferns are especially common. Occasionally tree ferns (Cyathea contaminans and C. felina in the lowland areas and Cyathea magna in the highlands areas) are grown, or at least encouraged. The magnificent staghorn fern (Platycerium wandae) is grown in low to middle altitudes in areas wherever the species occurs naturally. The common bird's nest ferns, Asplenium nidus and A. musifolium, are present in most gardens in lowland areas. Similarly nearly every garden has plants of Nephrolepis (several species) and Pityrogramma calomelanos (the silver-backed fern), although these are present as reasonably attractive weeds rather than actively encouraged. Many gardens support introduced ornamentals such as the maiden-hair ferns (Adiantum cuneatum, A. tenerum, A. trapeziforme and cultivars), and various cultivars of Nephrolepis and Phlebodium aureum.
Ferns are often used as personal decoration, either casually or for ceremonial occasions. Wagner and Grether (1948) report Selaginella being used as casual adornment by carriers on Manus and I have seen the apical branches of Dicranopteris used there for the same purpose. Powell (1976) reports from the Huli region of the southern highlands a species of epiphytic Lycopodium is used as head-dress ornamentation on ceremonial occasions, and notes that species of Lycopodium are used elsewhere on ceremonial occasions (Rappaport 1967). In the Mt Wilhelm area of the Chimbu Province the villagers collect the elongate scaley fronds of the alpine fern Polystichum linearis and tie the apical part into a tight flat coil which is used to decorate the hair. The silver-backed fern Pityrogramma calomelanos, with its striking contrast between the dark green upper surface and the bright white under surface, is also used for body decoration (Croft in press).
Powell (1976) notes that the fronds of a species of Nephrolepis are used ritually in the southern highlands at the death ceremonies of close relatives, being placed among the bones.
"Bullroarers" are made from the woody parts of the trunks of the common tree fern Cyathea contaminans and used on ceremonial occasions (Powell 1976b). Woven waistbands and arm bands are made from the rachises of Dicranopteris linearis and Gleichenia hirta in the central highlands.
Perhaps the most dangerous and troublesome weed in New Guinea today is a fern - Salvinia molesta. This floating aquatic was introduced, possibly as an aquarium ornamental, and has become established in the slow-moving water bodies of the Sepik River and in some of the swamps around Port Moresby (Anon. 1980; Mitchell 1979a, b; Richards 1979). This plant has long been known as a pest in other tropical and subtropical countries (Anon. 1979, Kleinschmidt 1973, Wild 1961). It reproduces rapidly by vegetative division, quickly covering large bodies of relatively still water, making water transport difficult or impossible and smothering all the fish. It is virtually impossible to remove as each individual leaf has the capacity to form a new plant and recolonise the area; thus eradication or control by physical removal is a difficult or impossible task, although even large bodies of water can be kept relatively free of the weed by diligent and persistent effort. Similarly, spraying large areas with herbicides such as Paraquat has been unsuccessful in the long term, as well as very expensive. It seems that the most likely control of this pest will be by biological means with the introduction of some successful predator (Henty & Pritchard 1982); there has recently been a very successful eradication program on a lake near Mt Isa, Queensland, where the predator, a weevil introduced from South America, completely wiped out the heavy Salvinia infestation, then died out as a result.
The terrestrial fern weeds (eg. Pteridium, Sphaerostephanos, Christella, Nephrolepis) are also especially troublesome because of their habit of spreading widely and rapidly by long, creeping rhizomes. A notable exception is the common weed Pityrogramma calomelanos or "silver-backed fern" which relies on producing vast quantities of minute spores, capable of dispersing long distances and becoming quickly established in newly available habitats, such as along roads or recently cleared areas. It has been reported as a nuisance weed in oil-palm plantations in tropical central-west Africa (Wardlaw 1962). Originally from South America it has spread throughout the tropical regions of the world within the last 120 years (Schelpe 1975, Panigrahi 1975) and is presently spreading rapidly in New Guinea (Croft in press). The bracken fern Pteridium aquilinum is also capable of rapid colonisation of bare ground by the establishment of numerous sporelings, especially after fire (Gliessman 1978) and this is a particular problem in tropical regions where the burning of grasslands is common practice.
In the first edition of the definitive work on the weeds of New Guinea (Henty & Pritchard 1973), not a single fern is mentioned as being a significant weed, being overshadowed by more significant and annoying pests. In the second edition (Henty & Pritchard 1975) they mentioned only one fern weed, the common bracken Pteridium aquilinum; Salvinia was not mentioned as it had not come to the attention of agriculturists at that time. No mention was made of the common nuisance ferns of plantations and gardens, primarily because these are generally not dangerous to stock or crops. They can, however, hinder the efficient running of a plantation. In the third and latest edition (Henty and Pritchard 1982), Salvinia molesta is included as well as one of the most common weeds of coconut plantations, Sphaerostephanos (Cyclosorus) unitus, with a brief note on the related fern Christella (Cyclosorus) arida. These weeds can be eradicated by the application of a variety of herbicides, but mechanical destruction by slashing, rolling, or trampling by livestock is very effective, the repeated breaking of the young fronds eventually killing the plant (White 1935, Henty & Pritchard 1982).
In his book on the toxic plants of Papua New Guinea, Henty (1980) mentions two poisonous ferns: Cheilanthes tenuifolia and Pteridium aquilinum. The reports of toxicity of the former are based on Australian literature and probably refer to Cheilanthes sieberi which appears not to occur in Papuasia. Similarly, the toxicity of bracken (Pteridium spp.) is based on Australian and European reports of prolonged feeding on the fern inducing thiamine deficiency (Everist 1974). Both Pteridium aquilinum and Pteridium esculentum occur in New Guinea and in some areas are very common; however, there have been no authenticated reports of Pteridium poisoning of livestock although the animals seem to do poorly in areas heavily infested with bracken (Henty pers. comm.).
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Holdsworth, D.K. 1974. A phytochemical survey of the Medicinal plants of the d'Entrecasteaux Islands, Papua. Sci. in New Guinea 2: 164-171.
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Mitchel, D.S. 1979. Aquatic weeds in Papua New Guinea. Sci. in New Guinea 6: 154-160, 16 pl.
Mitchel, D.S. 1979b. The incidence and management of Salvinia molesta in Papua New Guinea. i-v, 1-51, f. 1-2, 16 pl., i-viii.
Panigrahi, G. 1975. The genus Pityrogramma (Hemionitidaceae) in Asia. Kew Bull. 30: 657-667.
Peekel, P.G. 1910. Religion and Zanberei. Bibliothek Anthropos, I, 3. Munich, Germany.
Peekel, P.G. (in press). Illustrierte Flora des Bismarck-Archipels fur Naturfreunde. Volume 1 (pteridophytes): 1-121, figs. Translated into English and edited by E.E. Henty.
Powell, J.M. 1976. Some useful wild and domesticated plants of the Huli of Papua. Sci. in New Guinea 4: 173-201, f. 1.
Powell, J.M. 1976b. Part III. Ethnobotany. in Paijmans, K. ed. New Guinea vegetation. 106-183, f. 3.1, pl. 44-53. Aust. Nat. Univ. Canberra.
Quirk, H., Chaambers, T.L. & Regan, M. 1983. The genus Cheilanthes in Australia. Aust. J. Bot. 31: 501-553.
Quisumbing, E. 1951. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Tech. Bull. 16. 1-1234. Dept. Agric. Manila.
Richards, A.H. 1979. Salvinia in the Sepik River. Harvest 5: 239-242, figs, map.
Scheifenhovel, W. 1970. Ergebnisse ethnomedinizinischer Untersuchungen bei den Kaluli und Waragu in New Guinea. Erlangen-Nurnberg.
Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. 1975. Observations on the spread of the American fern Pityrogramma calomelanos. Brit. Fern Gaz. 11: 101-103.
Specht, R.L. 1958. An introduction to the ethnobotany of Arnhem Land. in Specht, R.L. & Montford, C.P. 1958. Report on the American-Australian expedition to Arnhem Land. 3. Botany and plant ecology. 497-550.
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Wardlaw, C.W. 1962. A note on Pityrogramma calomelanos (L.) Link, a fern nuisance in Cameroons plantations. J. Ecol. 50: 129-131, pl. 3.
White, C.T. 1935. The common bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). Qld. Agric. J. Feb., 150-151, pl. 69.
Wild, H. 1961. Harmful aquatic plants of Africa and Madagascar. Kirkia 2: 1-66, figs.
Ferns and their Allies used by or Affecting Man in Papuasia
Note: species marked with an asterisk (*) have not been authenticated and are suspected of being unreliably named.
|Adiantum cuneatum||urban ornamental||urban centres|
|Adiantum tenerum||urban ornamental||urban centres|
|Adiantum trapeziforme||urban ornamental||urban centres|
|Angiopteris evecta||fronds bound to fractured limb||southern highlands||Scheifenhovel 1970|
|Angiopteris evecta||various rituals and magic||Jimi valley||Powell 1976b|
|Arthropteris palisotii||fronds worn around neck||Kukukuku||Powell 1976b|
|Asplenium acrobryum||ash of dried fronds used as salt||Huon Peninsula, central & western highlands||Freund et al. 1965, Croft in press|
|Asplenium affine*||fronds a wild food supplement||Watut valley||Powell 1976b|
|Asplenium musifolium||urban ornamental||urban centres|
|Asplenium nidus||urban ornamental||urban centres|
|Asplenium sp.||fronds a wild food supplement||Watut valley, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Blechnum orientale||new fronds eaten to induce sterility in women||Mt Koiari, Central Province||Holdsworth et al.|
|Blechnum sp.||young fronds eaten as wild food supplement||Wissel Lakes (W New Guinea)||Powell 1976b|
|Ceratopteris thalictroides||a fern vegetable, not widely used in Papuasia||S.E. Asia, Bismarck Archipelago||**1980b**|
|Cheilanthes tenuifolia||fronds toxic to stock in Australia||seasonal lowland areas||Henty 1980|
|Ctenitis sp.*||young fronds eaten||Powell 1976b|
|Cyathea||young fronds of several species boiled and eaten with or without other vegetables||central highlands|
|Cyathea||trunks used as durable fence or house posts, also as decorative ridge poles, etc.||central highlands, Manus|
|Cyathea||fibrous trunks used as substrate for orchids, etc.||urban centres|
|Cyathea||several species grown as urban ornamentals||urban centres|
|Cyathea angiensis||young fronds boiled and eaten||Jimi valley||Powell 1976b|
|Cyathea contaminans||fence/house posts||central highlands, Manus|
|Cyathea contaminans||substrate for ornamental plants||urban areas|
|Cyathea contaminans||urban ornamental||lowland & highland urban centres|
|Cyathea contaminans||young fronds boiled and eaten||New Britain||Powell 1976b|
|Cyathea contaminans||bull roarers made from woody part of trunk||Watut valley, Western Province||Powell 1976b|
|Cyathea magna||fence/house posts||central highlands|
|Cyathea magna||urban ornamental||highland and urban centres|
|Cyathea rubiginosa*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Jimi valley||Powell 1976b|
|Cyathea sangirensis||fence/house posts||central highlands|
|Cyathea sangirensis||substrate for ornamental plants||urban centres|
|Cyathea sangirensis||urban ornamental||lowland urban centres|
|Cyathea sp.||fishing spear||New Britain||Powell 1976b|
|Cyathea spp.||young fronds boiled and eaten||Jimi valley, Wissel Lakes, Tari, Mt Hagen, Kainantu||Powell 1976b|
|Cyclosorus sp.*||poultice of boiled fronds applied to sores||New Britain||Powell 1976b|
|Cyclosorus sp.*||extract of crushed fronds drunk to treat fever||Mt Hagen||Powell 1976b|
|Cyclosorus sp.*||treatment of coughs||Northern Province||Powell 1976b|
|Cyclosorus sp.*||fronds used for wrapping food||Chimbu||Powell 1976b|
|Cystodium sorbifolium||rhizome hairs used for stuffing pillows, etc.||Manus|
|Dennstaedtia spp.*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Jimi valley, New Britain, Wissel Lakes (W New Guinea)||Powell 1976b|
|Dicranopteris linearis||fronds bound externally onto wounds||New Britain||Futscher 1959|
|Dicranopteris linearis||black core of stem woven into arm bands, belts||Jimi valley||Powell 1976b|
|Dicranopteris several spp.||casual adornment||Manus|
|Diplazium asperum||young fronds boiled and eaten||Watut valley||Powell 1976b|
|Diplazium cordifolium*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Watut valley, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Diplazium esculentum||young fronds boiled and eaten with or without other vegetables||most low and middle altitude areas in Papuasia|
|Diplazium sp.||young fronds boiled and eaten||Jimi valley||Powell 1976b|
|Diplazium sp.||fronds boiled and eaten as vegetable||Sepik River||Leach in press|
|Diplazium sp. (Athyrium)||used in the treatment of sores||Northern Province||Powell 1976b|
|Drynaria rigidula||village and urban ornamental||lowland & highland areas|
|Dryopteris arbuscula*||young fronds eaten||Watut valley||Powell 1976b|
|Dryopteris milneana*||roots applied to boils, ulcers, arrow wounds||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Dryopteris sparsa*||young fronds eaten||Watut valley, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Dryopteris sp.* (?=Thelyp.)||abortifacient||New Ireland||Peekel 1910|
|Equisetum debile||stems used as an abrasive for cleaning cooking utensils, and for shaping tools, weapons, etc.||highland & lowland areas||Powell 1976, Hide 1974|
|Gleichenia brassii||rachis used for heavy tying, eg. fence posts||Mt Hagen||Powell 1976b|
|Gleichenia sp.||young fronds eaten||highlands area||Powell 1976b|
|Helminthostachys zeylanica||a fern vegetable, not widely used in New Guinea||S.E. Asia, Sepik River||Copeland 1942, Leach in press|
|Lomagramma sinuata||fronds boiled and eaten as vegetable||Sepik River||Leach in press|
|Lycopodium clavatum||emetic, induces vomiting||Philippines||Quisumbing 1951|
|Lycopodium sp.||chewed to induce vomiting after food poisoning||central highlands||Holdworth & Giheno 1975|
|Lycopodium sp.||stems used in ceremonial head-dress||southern highlands, other regions||Powell 1967, 1976b|
|Lycopodium sp.||medical rituals||Mt Hagen, Jimi valley||Powell 1976b|
|Lycopodium spp.||young shoots||Powell 1976b|
|Lygodium||most species suitable for binding & lashing||most lowland regions|
|Lygodium circinatum||lashing on canoes, weapons, etc.||most lowland areas||Powell 1976b|
|Lygodium circinatum||fine basketware||Bougainville|
|Lygodium longifolium*||fronds chewed with ash salt to cure stomach ache and diarrhoea||central highlands||Holdsworth & Giheno 1975|
|Lygodium sp.||draught of crushed leaves to cure leprosy||Dobu Island, Milne Bay||Holdsworth 1974|
|Lygodium spp.||rachis woven into conical plunge traps to catch shoal fish in shallow water||Powell 1976b|
|Marattia sp.||swollen caudex used as starvation food||highland & lowland areas|
|Marsilea||starch prepared from fruit of Australian spp.||not used in Papuasia|
|Microlepia speluncae||leaves boiled and eaten as vegetable||Sepik River||Leach in press|
|Microsorium commutatum*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Watut, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Microsorium irioides*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Watut, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Microsorium linguaeforme*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Watut, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Nephrolepis||several species and cultivars used as urban ornamentals||urban centres|
|Nephrolepis biserrata||urban ornamental, also prolific weed||lowland & midland urban centres|
|Nephrolepis biserrata*||roots pounded to flour||Frederik-Hendrik Island (W New Guinea)||Powell 1976b|
|Nephrolepis biserrata||leaves boiled and eaten as vegetable||Sepik River||Leach in press|
|Nephrolepis duffii||urban ornamental||lowland urban centres|
|Nephrolepis falcata||urban ornamental, also prolific weed||lowland & midland urban centres|
|Nephrolepis hirsuta||urban ornamental, also prolific weed||lowland & midland urban centres|
|Nephrolepis sp.||fronds placed among bones in death ceremonies||southern highlands||Powell 1976|
|Orthiopteris sp.||fronds boiled and eaten as vegetable||Sepik River||Leach in press|
|Phlebodium aureum||urban ornamental||lowland urban centres|
|Pityrogramma calomelanos||urban ornamental, potential weed||lowland & midland areas||Croft in press|
|Pityrogramma calomelanos||tips of fronds used in head-dress||Morobe Province||Croft in press|
|Pityrogramma calomelanos||used as a poultice(?)||Morobe Province|
|Platycerium wandae||urban ornamental||lowland & midland urban centres|
|Pneumatopteris (Cyclosorus) sogerensis||young fronds boiled and eaten||Jimi valley, New Britain, Watut, Sepik River||Powell 1976b, Leach in press|
|Polypodium sp.*||plant burned and smoke inhaled to relieve nasal and throat inflammation||Mt Hagen||Powell 1976b|
|Polypodium sp.*||fronds used in death ceremonies||Tari||Powell 1976b|
|Polystichum linearis||fronds curled up and used in head-dress||Mt Wilhelm|
|Polystichum sp.||crushed hot frond applied to groin swelling||Mt Hagen||Powell 1976b|
|Pronephrium menisciicarpon*||fronds applied to boils, ulcers, arrow wounds||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Pteridium aquilinum||weed of pastures, toxic to stock||lowland & highland areas||Henty & Pritchard 1982|
|Pteridium aquilinum||sap from petiole relieves toothache, etc.||Mt Hagen||Powell 1976b|
|Pteridium aquilinum||various ritual & magic ceremonies||Chimbu||Powell 1976b|
|Pteris ensiformis||fronds applied to boils, ulcers, arrow wounds||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Pteris ensiformis||fronds used to control menstruation||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Pteris moluccana||young fronds boiled and eaten, roots pounded to flour||Watut, eastern highlands||Powell 1976b|
|Pteris tripartita||fronds taken internally during childbirth||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Salvinia molesta||aquarium ornamental||urban centres|
|Salvinia molesta||noxious weed congesting waterways||Sepik River, Port Moresby||Mitchell 1979, Henty & Pritchard 1982|
|Selaginella caudata||whole plant used as a broom||New Britain||Powell 1976b|
|Selaginella flabellata||feverish headaches, menstruation; leaves applied externally, roots taken internally||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Selaginella flabellata||leaves used to control menstruation||Bougainville||Blackwood 1935|
|Selaginella opaca||young leaves boiled and eaten||Chimbu||Powell 1976b|
|Selaginella sp.||casual adornment||Manus||Wagner & Grether 1948|
|Sphaerostephanos (Cyclosorus) unitus||nuisance weed of pastures and plantations||lowland and highland areas||Henty & Pritchard 1982|
|Sphaerostephanos (Cyclosorus) unitus||stems used for lashing in house construction||Tari||Powell 1976b|
|Sphaerostephanos (Cyclosorus) sp.||fronds boiled and eaten as vegetable||Sepik River||Leach in press|
|Stenochlaena palustris||young fronds boiled and eaten with or without other vegetables||Manus, Lake Kutubu, Sepik River||Powell 1976b, Leach in press|
|Thelypteris sp.*||young fronds boiled and eaten||Wissel Lakes (W New Guinea)||Powell 1976b|