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Ophioglossum reticulatum - L.

Common Name Adder's tongue fern
Family Ophioglossaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200 ]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172 ].
Habitats Grassland in open damp sandy soil at elevations up to 1,500 metres in Africa[200 , 299 ]. Moist sandy soils, seasonally wet soils, along roads, on termite hills, in montane grassland among rocks and forest margins, from sea-level up to 2,500 metres[299 ].
Range Pantropical.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Ophioglossum reticulatum Adder

Ophioglossum reticulatum Adder


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Ophioglossum reticulatum is a tropical, perennial fern growing up to 35 cm high with fronds that are oval with heart-shaped base. The rhizome is erect and cylindrical, exhibiting many thin roots. The plant is a popular nutritious vegetable. The fronds, in particular, are cooked (blanched) or used in salads. A decoction of the rhizome is used topically on boils. The leaves, on the other hand are boiled in oil and applied to wounds. Leaf juice is drunk against spasms of the heart. Plant is grown from spores or rhizome.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of fern
Ophioglossum reticulatum is a deciduous Fern growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses:

Young fronds are commonly eaten as a salad or vegetable[332 ]. A sweet flavour[46 ]. The leaves should be blanched only; if boiled too much they turn into slime[299 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiinflammatory  Skin

A warm decoction of the rhizome is used topically on boils[299 ]. The leaf juice is drunk against spasms of the heart[299 ]. The leaves, boiled in oil, are applied to wounds[299 ]. The plant is used as an anti-inflammatory medicine[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Pots. Plants are not normally cultivated as a food crop, but are sometimes grown in pots for medicinal use[299]. The presence of alkaloids, arbutin, amygdalin, saponin, formic acid and oxalic acid has been shown.

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Widespread in tropical and subtropical areas of the Neotropics and Palaeotropics. Typically found thriving in shallow soil on rock shelves fully exposed to sunlight. However, it can also inhabit various woodland environments, whether dense forests or open woodlands. The plant can become a weed of agriculture but does little harm because of its small size[299 ]. When grown from spores, plants can be harvested for their leaves after 1 - 2 years[299 ]. When grown from rhizomes collected from the wild, harvesting may start after about six months[299 ]. The fronds are irresistible to insects and molluscs[200 ]. The Adder's tongue fern is naturally distributed in Africa, specifically in grasslands with open, damp, sandy soil, at elevations of up to 1,500 meters. It can also be found in moist sandy soils, seasonally wet soils, on termite hills, in montane grasslands among rocks and forest margins, and at various elevations ranging from sea level up to 2,500 meters.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Spores - very difficult to germinate[200 ]. Division with care since the rhizome is brittle[200 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Apatia, Bilai gangse, Chukut sadaun, Chukut siraru, Ektir, Isa nki ntana, Jibha, Jibre sag, Jukut siraru, Lai gangse, Yimuyidun, Adder’s tongue fern, herbe paille en queue, l'un dans l'autre, oreille de souris [1-4].

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Asia, Australia, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central America, China, Congo, East Africa, Equatorial-Guinea, Haiti, Lord Howe Island, India, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nepal, Northeastern India, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, PNG, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tibet, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Zululand [1-4].

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

The plant can become a weed of agriculture, but does little harm because of its small size[299 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ophioglossum vulgatumAdder's Tongue, Southern adderstongueFern0.3 4-8  LMHNM12 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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