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Psilotum nudum
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Psilotum nudum (L.) P. Beauv., 1805

Species:P. nudum
Common Names:Whisk Fern


This is a vascular plant without roots. The rhizome is mycorrhizal and bears rhizoids. The aerial stems are erect but becoming pendent in large plants, 10-50 cm long, angular and dichotomously forked. Leaves are small, scale-like, 1-2 mm long, scattered and vainless. The sporangia are 3-lobed and borne on the axils of the leaves. Spores are bilateral.

Read more about the Psilotales order.
Read more about the Psilotaceae family.


Widely distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics.

Locality Map

General Biology

This is a terrestrial plant but more often is epiphytic.

Life Cycle

The spores are of the same size, germinating extremely slowly in darkness underground into cylindrical gametophytes that are about 2 mm in diameter. The gametophytes are sometimes forked and covered with numerous rhizoids. Growth depends on the presence of an endophytic mycorrhizal fungus. The sex organs develop from the surface of the gametophyte. Once the sperms from the antheridia fertilise the eggs in the archegonia, the zygotes develope into the sporophytes.

For an account of the life history of atypical fern, see Pyrrosia piloselloides.

Human Uses

Psilotum nudum is reputed to have laxative properties. It can also make an attractive ornamental plant.


Cryptogams: Ferns and fern allies. Prosea Foundation, Borgor, Indonesia. 268 pp.

Goudey, C. J., 1985. Maidenhair ferns in cultivation. Lothian Publiahing Co. Pty. Ltd. Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland. 336pp.

Holttum, R. E., 1966. A revised flora of Malaya. II Ferns of Malaya. Govt. Printing Office, Singapore (2nd ed.). 653 pp.

Parris, B. S., R. Khew, R. C. K. Chung, L. G. Saw & E. Soepadmo (eds.), 2010. Flora of Peninsular Malaysia. Series I: Ferns and Lycophytes. Vol. 1. Malayan Forest records No. 48. Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, Kepong. 249 pp.

Wee, Y. C., 2005. Ferns of the tropics. Times Editions-Marshall Cavendish, Singapore. 2nd ed. 190 pp.

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