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Long Strap Fern
long strap fern
Long strap fern, photographed at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach, Palm Beach County, July 2013.
long strap fern 600

Long strap fern, Campyloneurum phyllitidis, doesn't need much to get a long in life. Just a little something to hold on to. A rock, a stump, a decaying log will do it just fine.

Long strap fern is an epiphyte, an air plant of sorts. It needs a host in order to grow. Not in the way parasites do. It doesn't steal water or nutrition — it secures what it needs from whatever can be pulled from the air or collects in its fronds. But it needs the host for structure, to grow on.

This fern is a Florida native, growing as far north as Volusia County on the Atlantic Coast and Citrus County on the Gulf. It is found throughout South Florida.

Florida is as far north as long strap fern grows. Its range extends southward through the Caribbean, Central America and South America into Brazil and Paraguay. The only other state where it's found is Hawaii, but it is an introduced plant there.

It's easy to see how this plant got its name — the long, leathery, yellow-green fronds make it easy to identfy. The leaves are straight, with a slight wave along the edges.

It will grow to two or three feet tall, more narrow than it is high. Some of the fronds are marked on one side with rows of yellowish dots called sori, which produce spores that spread the plant. It is a perennial.

Long strap fern is found in moist, shady places, including cypress swamps and hammocks. It also can be found growing on the walls of limestone sinkholes.

large leaf strap fern in a tree

The plants on these pages were photographed along the cypress swamp at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach and Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek.

Long strap fern is used in landscaping; the Institute for Regional Conservation recommends it for natural landscapes, restorations and as an accent plant.

There are two other strap ferns found in South Florida, both of which are rare and generally restricted to Miami-Dade, Collier and Monroe counties. Long strap fern, however, is common.

Long strap fern is a member of Polypodiaceae, a family of mostly epiphyte ferns. Note: The USDA and the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive plants use Campyloneurum phyllitidis as the scientific name for this plant. The Institute for Regional Conservation uses Polypodium phyllitidis. An alternative spelling of the common name: long strapfern.


Photographs by

David Sedore

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Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.