Also Known As
African Climbing Fern [1]
Giant Vine Fern [6,8]
Stenochlaena mildbraedii [2] 

Order:   Polypodiales
Family:   Blechnaceae
Genus:    Stenochlaena
Species: tenuifolia

Florida c s

Edible Parts
Shoots Caution
Other Uses
Medicinal Ornamental
The first time that I saw this incredibly gorgeous, large, tree-climbing fern was while strolling the shaded trails at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. It may climb up to 60 feet up a tree trunk. Most of its native range lies across a wide part of the African continent. It is usually cultivated in shady gardens as an ornamental. It is also rarely found growing wild in Miami-Dade, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. In Madagascar the cooked fiddleheads are consumed and in Congo the sap is used as an aphrodisiac. DO NOT CONSUME ANY FIDDLEHEADS before doing your own research into the potentially toxic chemicals found in them. The deep green shiny fronds are apparently long-lasting in floral arrangements. 

CAUTION: DO NOT CONSUME ANY FIDDLEHEADS before doing your own research into the potentially toxic chemicals found in them. Fiddleheads should never be eaten in large amounts. 
EDIBLE FIDDLEHEADS: "The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine." [1] "The young fronds (croziers, fiddleheads) are eaten in Madagascar." [11,12] "No known hazards." [1] Grower Jim writes, "Young fiddleheads are edible if cooked until tender." [8]
MEDICINAL SAP: "In Congo the sap is taken with a ripe banana as an aphrodisiac." [11,12]
GROUNDCOVER: It "can be used as ground cover." [4] It is "able to quickly cover large areas." [3]
IN FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS: Grower Jim writes, "The [deep green shiny] leaves have heavy substance and are long-lasting as cut greens in floral arrangements."[8] 

NATIVE TO: "Africa: Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, S. Africa, Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius." [1] It is usually cultivated in shady gardens, and is also found growing wild in Miami-Dade, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties here in Florida. [5]
HABITAT: "Coastal swamp forest." [4 via 1]
NOTE: "The chain ferns were formerly considered to belong to the Polypodiaceae." [7]
DESCRIPTION: "A large [perennial evergreen] fern with a straggling and climbing rhizome." [1]
- HEIGHT:  It "can be up to 20 meters long and 15 mm in diameter; it can growing high up into the surrounding trees." [1]
- LEAVES:  "The leathery leaves can be up to 180 cm long, with pinnate sterile leaves up to 100 cm long. The rather coarse, pinnate fronds are widely spaced and quickly cover large areas." [3,4] The spore-producing fronds are very thin. [8]
DETAILED DESCRIPTION FROM EOL.ORG: writes, "Large procumbent or climbing fern, rooting in the ground. Rhizome up to 20 m long and 10-20 mm in diameter, creeping along the ground or ascending trees; rhizome scales sparse, thick, entire, dark brown, awl-shaped, nonpersistent, 1-5 mm long. Fronds dimorphic, up to 3 m long, arching, widely spaced. Stipe 30-60 cm long, pale brown, grooved, glabrous. Sterile lamina imparipinnate, firmly membranous, ovate-oblong in outline, 0.5-2 × 0.2-0.7 m; pinnae about 20 alternate pairs, linear-lanceolate, glabrous, shortly petiolate, apex pointed, base unequally cuneate, margins minutely serrate, 15-35 × 2-3.8 cm. Fertile lamina 2-pinnate or rarely pinnate, usually slightly shoter than the sterile lamina, with 25-30 pairs of lateral pinnae; pinnae petiolate, about 4 cm apart, pinnately divided into very irregular narrowly linear segments, completely covered with sporangia below, sori exindusiate." [6]
- HARDINESS: USDA zones 9-11. [8] The University of Connecticut ranks it from zones 10A-11. [10]
- LIGHT: "Sun or shade." [8] "A very adaptable plant, able to grow in full sun even though deep to moderate shade are its normal habitat." [3] 
- SOIL AND WATER: "Wet or dry" conditions. [8] "Plants can succeed in moist soils as well as the wetter conditions they usually grow in." [3] "Prefers an acid soil."  [3]
- PROPAGATION: Grower Jim writes, "Mature specimens of Giant Vine Fern grow a few specialized fertile fronds that produce spores, by which this plant can be propagated, although it's much simpler and faster to use sections of the rhizome." [8] 

More Details

Shaded Gardens

Plant Form
Herbaceous Evergreen Perennial Vine
60 feet
Rate of Growth

Hardiness Zone
9b to 11b
Ease of growth
Shade Part Sun Full Sun


[1] Useful Tropical Plants [] 
[3] The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992 
[4] Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 
[5] Atlas of Florida Plants 
[7] Go Botany [] 
[8] Grower Jim Blog 
[10] UCONN [] 
[11] PROTA [] 
[12] Vegetables, by Grubben 
Last Updated: October 31, 2017