Bird’s-nest fern


The bird’s-nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is a large, leafy fern commonly found on wayside trees in Singapore, particularly the rain tree.1 The fern, which grows at the base of large branches, has a unique ability to trap water and develop its own store of humus.

Description
The bird’s-nest fern is an epiphyte plant that can be found in Asia, Australia, and Africa.2 It has a stout erect rhizome (stem) that bears a rosette of simple leaves (fronds) to form a “nest”. The stem is usually not visible from the top. Beneath the nest of fronds is a large, spongy mass of roots. The nest traps fallen leaves and other debris, which eventually decompose to become humus. When it rains, large quantities of water are absorbed by the sponge of roots.3 In this way, the plant is self-sufficient in acquiring its food and water, so much so that it provides a habitat for the growth of other ferns and mosses, and even home for small animals.4

The fronds can grow to a length of more than a metre and a width of about 20 cm, with the whole plant extending about two metres across.5 The leaves are in a shiny light-green colour, with a smooth, sometimes wavy-edged, blade as well as a prominent black midrib. The sporangia – sacs that produce spores for reproduction – are found on the underside of the fronds in parallel rows inclined at 45 deg to the midrib. The fern produces plentiful spores that are dispersed by wind.6


In some Malay rural areas, the plant is believed to have supernatural properties, or the home of the langsuir, a mythical female banshee hostile to pregnant women.7

Usage and potential
Food: The bird’s-nest fern is non-poisonous and occasionally eaten by aboriginal tribes in Malaysia.8

Medicine: There are several medicinal uses of the bird’s-nest fern by the Malaysian native tribes. Infusion of the fronds is used to ease labour pains. The leaves can also be pounded in water and used as a lotion to treat fever. Two young fronds can be eaten when they are still coiled as a contraceptive, and tea made from fronds can be used for general weakness.9

Other uses: The fern is commercially valuable and exploited as an ornamental. It can be grown on the ground as landscape design.10 It is also a popular houseplant in Singapore, as they are inexpensive and easy to cultivate.11


Variant names
Malay: Daun semun, paku langsuyar, paku padan, rumah langsuyar, selimbar12

Chinese: Niaochao jue (鸟巢蕨)13



Authors
Lee-Khoo Guan Fong and Shereen Tay




References
1. Tan, T. W. H, & Chua, K. S. (1995). Growing at your doorstep: 35 native plants of Singapore. Singapore: National Council on the Environment, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 TAN)
2. Koh, H. L., Chua, T. K., & Tan, C. H. (2009). A guide to medicinal plants: An illustrated, scientific and medicinal approach. Singapore: World Scientific Publication, pp. 18–19. (Call no.: RSING 581.634095957 KOH)
3. Piggott, A. G. (1979). Heinemann guide to common epiphytic ferns of Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia), pp. 8–9. (Call no.: RSING 587.31095957 PIG)
4. Wee, Y. C. (1983). A guide to the ferns of Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre, pp. 19–21. (Call no.: RSING 587.31095957 WEE); Piggott, A. G. (1979). Heinemann guide to common epiphytic ferns of Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia), pp. 8–9. (Call no.: RSING 587.31095957 PIG)
5. Chin, S. C., & Chan, E. (Eds.). (2001). Skyrise gardening in highrise homes. Singapore: Singapore National Parks Board, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 635.9671 SKY); Chan, E. (1998). Tropical plants of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 581.70913 CHA)
6. Tan, T. W. H, & Chua, K. S. (1995). Growing at your doorstep: 35 native plants of Singapore. Singapore: National Council on the Environment, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 TAN); Koh, H. L., Chua, T. K., & Tan, C. H. (2009). A guide to medicinal plants: An illustrated, scientific and medicinal approach. Singapore: World Scientific Publication, pp. 18–19. (Call no.: RSING 581.634095957 KOH)
7. Chan, E. (1998). Tropical plants of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 9. (Call no.: 581.70913 CHA)
8. Piggott, A. G. (1988). Ferns of Malaysia in colour. Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press, p. 267. (Call no.: RSING 587.3109595 PIG)
9. Koh, H. L., Chua, T. K., & Tan, C. H. (2009). A guide to medicinal plants: An illustrated, scientific and medicinal approach. Singapore: World Scientific Publication, pp. 18–19. (Call no.: RSING 581.634095957 KOH)
10. Tan, T. W. H, & Chua, K. S. (1995). Growing at your doorstep: 35 native plants of Singapore. Singapore: National Council on the Environment, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 TAN)
11. Tofield, A. (Ed.). (1985). Golden gardening: Fifty years of the Singapore Gardening Society 1936–1986. Singapore: Singapore Gardening Society, pp. 51–53. (Call no.: RSING 635 GOL); Tan. A. (2003, February 22). Home fernishings. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Piggott, A. G. (1988). Ferns of Malaysia in colour. Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press, p. 267. (Call no.: RSING 587.3109595 PIG)
13. Chin, S. C., & Chan, E. (Eds.). (2001). Skyrise gardening in highrise homes. Singapore: Singapore National Parks Board, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 635.9671 SKY)



Further resources
Johnson, A. (1977). The fern of Singapore island. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pp. 74–75.

(Call no.: RSING 587.31 JOH)

River Valley High School. Science Club. (1991). A guide to the flora and fauna of schools in Singapore. Singapore: Hillview Publications, p. 54.
(Call no.: RSING 581.95957 RIV)

Wee, Y. C. (1992). A guide to medicinal plants. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre, p. 20.
(Call no.: RSING 581.634095957 WEE)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Asplenium--Singapore
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Horticulture>>Flowers and ornamental plants
Plants
Nature>>Plants

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