Polypody Family

California Polypody © KKorbholz

Polypodiaceae (pol-ee-po-DAY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

    • Stalks light-colored and usually smooth
    • Fronds 0- to 1-pinnate
    • Sori usually along frond veins
    • No indusia

    Description (Jepson)

    • Ferns (Polypodiopsida) 
      • An early group of vascular plants that produce spores (reproductive cells)
        • Produce no flowers or seeds
        • Fossil records date back almost 400 million years, versus 130 million years for flowering plants
    • Perennial herbs
      • Grow from rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
    • Fronds (leaves)
      • Simple (not divided into leaflets) to compound (divided into leaflets), with 1 level of division (1-pinnate)
      • Variable in texture, from very thin to fleshy to leathery
      • Young fronds uncurl from tight spirals called fiddleheads
      • Stalks (petioles) are generally green or straw-colored to brown
        • Usually not scaly/hairy
    • Sori 
      • Sori (singular: sorus) are clusters of spore-producing, sac-like structures called sporangia (singular: sporangium)
      • Located on the underside of leaflets, usually along veins, sometimes scattered or near margins
      • Have no indusium (plural: indusia), a tissue flap sometimes covering immature sori


    • Approximately 650 species worldwide
    • Plants terrestrial, on rock, or often epiphytic (growing on other plants; not deriving moisture and nutrients directly from its host)
    • Scientific and common name from the genus Polypodium, from the Latin poly, “many,” and pody, “feet,” referring to rhizomes (underground, horizontal stems)
    • California polypody (Polypodium californicum) is the only representative of this family at Edgewood
    • Edgewood has 7 fern species in 4 plant families 

    See General References

    Specific References

      American Fern Society. About Ferns.

        U.S. Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. What Are Ferns?.

        Browse Edgewood Plants in this Family