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