Checklist of World Ferns.

                                Go also to completely revised
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Brian Swale B.Sc.(NZ), M.A.(Forestry)(Oxon)

This is a checklist of ferns (Pteridophyta) (class Filicopsida) covering all the world. In it the author is endeavouring to list every genus and species of fern currently recognised. It is under development, so many species are not listed in it yet. There are between 10,000 and 15,000 species of fern classified in about 40 families. Ferns (or pteridophytes) are a relatively primitive type of vascular plant, but have a special beauty and fascination for many people. Ferns have a two-stage life-cycle which involves a small plant called a prothallus (arising from the spores of the mature fern plant), which carries the sex organs, and from the union of a motile sperm travelling in surface water to the ovum in an archegonium, arises the spore-bearing plant we recognise as a fern. Fern taxonomy and fern classification are dealt with in these pages.
This checklist of ferns (Pteridophyta) (class Filicopsida) covering all the world is being prepared to satisfy the picky mind of the author, and because I have thus far been unable to find a checklist of this scope to use as a reference. I bought a specimen called Pellaea trifoliata, and neither the grower nor any book I could find, listed this species or indicated where it originated and what its growing preferences are. David Jones in his excellent Encyclopaedia of Ferns does not mention it, neither does Barbara Joe Hoshizaki in her Fern Growers Manual, though both obviously have a pretty good idea of the identity of the genera and species of ferns and fern allies to be found in the world. (The identification problem has been solved through these pages; the species actually is probably Pellaea sagittata (Cav.) Link from Texas, Central and South America.)

As mentioned above, There are somewhere about 10,000 to 15,000 species of fern, classified in about 40 families. Besides newly discovered species adding to the total, careful study by scientists continually results in proposals that currently recognised species should logically be split into several, or some should be combined into one, or that the names have been used in error according to the current rules governing such matters. Fern taxonomy is a dynamic process that keeps checklists like this continuously out of date.

For fern identification, click here Identification.

For a quick link to the access-point to 40+ fern family pages, (the navigation HUB) click here.

For a quick visit to the notes describing what has been done so far and what current work is being done click here.

I have endeavoured to provide the authority for every name I have listed here. However, the authors of several otherwise excellent books, admittedly semi-popular in presentation, have omitted to provide this useful detail, sometimes mentioning a species merely to illustrate some descriptive point along the way. An instance of this is Negripteris scioana, mentioned by David Jones in his excellent Encyclopaedia solely as an example of a fern which typically has white waxy secretions.

I also wanted to keep this information simple and to avoid becoming involved in differences of opinion in taxonomy and classification of ferns, but unavoidably, controversies are so current that exposing them has seemed to be necessary. The frontiers of knowledge, including as to new species of ferns, what constitutes any particular species and revising/changing the current names in deference to updated research results and reasoning, are being pushed out all the time. In particular, the classification of genera into the Adiantaceae, Pteridaceae and related familes such as Dennsaedtiaceae is so frought with controversy that I have almost certainly made errors in placing several genera into a family - depending on the line of reasoning adopted. So be it. However, as at July 1999, I note that I find it desirable to list all synonyms and other names by which species are known, and I will have to go back through my work and fill in gaps.

Note (disclaimer) that I do not have access to most original published studies, and must rely on opinions and interpretations made by others. I have come to realise that some of these professionals make significant mistakes other than just having a different opinion, and so their information may sometimes be misleading. Sometimes I can detect the errors, sometimes not. Sometimes I am able to run the data past another expert (not including myself here) for an informed opinion, sometimes not. So, sometimes the names I list as synonyms are in error, but I hope rarely. Also, some of my information is up-to-date, and some may be decades old, but that is the best I can do at any point in time..

I am using the books listed in the 'references' page as sources of information for this web-page because I do have them and they list very many species. As resources available to me and time allow I will provide these authority details, but initially at least many are missing.

Any information and suggestion for the improvement of this web-page will be welcome, particularly taxonomic works I have no access to.

Contact me here.

Classification of ferns.
According to David Jones there have been fourteen different classifications of ferns in the 100 years prior to the publishing of his Encyclopaedia in 1987. I did not intend to get sidetracked *** by such discussion, and am happy to use the one he uses; he does not inform his readers who proposed this particular one, as far as I can tell. However, to give you an impression of just how different are the conclusions of taxonomists, I mention that the current web-site of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, also has a list of fern families, but lists six fewer than David Jones; in it, M Jackson as at 9/3/96 has omitted the Cryptogrammataceae, Hemionitidaceae, Negripteridaceae, Lindsaeaceae, Thyrsopteridaceae, and the Sinopteridaceae. He has added the Woodsiaceae, and I have had to make a best guess as to where it fits.

Go to Kew to view their version.

They do list lots of fern genera.

Stop press!!    ***
As at 3 June 1999, it has been explained and shown to me that biochemical research into fern phylogeny especially during the last ten years has provided an additionally sound basis for explaining the relationships between fern genera and families. The concept of "Orders" within fern classification is not now seen as being soundly based. It seems that the structures upon which I have based these web-pages need revision, but just what the end-result of that will be is some way off. For the present, please note that changes are in the wind.

The following URL has much information about ferns, including about the results of the biochemical research mentioned above. University of California, Berkeley.

The table below is based on what David Jones wrote as Table 5, but I have added to it where I find it lacking.

Please click on the "Classification outline and navigation hub" below, to gain access to the fern family pages.

At the time of latest revision/addition (30 August 2000) there are 2,475species listed here of the 10,000 or so fern species of the world. (No activity from 8 July to 24 Sept 1999). Latest additions are in Melpomene, Terpsichore, Lellingeria, Coniogramme, Pecluma, Polypodium. (From about December 1999 until 30 July 2000, work on this database was suspended as more important work on my beech (Nothofagus) pages was undertaken. The beech - sustainable forestry work may interrupt it again from time to time.) On 28 Aug, 93 spp from Gulf of Guinea were added, 109 from Guyana on 29&30.


First put on the Web on 13 April 1999 with 1,417 species.

New, 12 April 2001. A totally new set of fern pages has been begun. Go to to view

The familes for which I have entered all data available to me are: Ophioglossaceae, Marattiaceae, Osmundaceae, Plagiogyraceae, Stromatopteridaceae, Gleicheniaceae, Cheiropleuriaceae, Dipteridaceae, Negripteridaceae, Loxsomataceae and Blechnaceae. Grammitidaceae is next on the list, and that is the one I am working on currently. This is the page upon which to see most movement right now. This is proving exciting, with 4 new genera created in the last 5 years on the basis of relationship information obtained using DNA techniques; a few researchers are very busy, co-operating around the world, and are having an exciting productive time as they make discoveries that conventional taxonomic techniques have been unable to unravel. In many instances it seems that the techniques being used reveal that what have hitherto been considered separate species - sometimes many - are really better considered to be one species. As a result, some lists of synonyms contain many names, and working through these takes quite some time.

Fern identification page.

....... and a questions page here

To read the copyright notices, please click here Copyright Brian James Swale, 1999, 2000.

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