%IMAGEGALLERY{ "%BASEWEB%.%BASETOPIC%" exclude="arrow|igp_.*" sort="name" warn="0"}%

Acrostichum speciosum

Acrostichum speciosum.jpg
Acrostichum speciosum, Singapore. Photo: John Yong

Edmund-Kennedy-03-P1-2 3.jpg
Acrostichum speciosum, Edmund Kennedy National Park, QLD.
Photo: Busby, J. © ANBG

Common Names

Mangrove Fern [1], Showy Mangrove Fern [2]



Name Reference

Acrostichum speciosum Willd.

Origin of Name

‘Acros-stichos’ means upper row (in Latin), and refers to the apical, spore-covered, fertile leaflets of this genus. ‘Speciosum’ means showy or good looking (in Latin), and refers to the showy presence of this species in the undergrowth of many mangrove stands ( [2]).


Edmund-Kennedy-04-P1 3.jpg
Acrostichum speciosum, Edmund Kennedy National Park, QLD.
Photo: Busby, J. © ANBG

Acrostichum speciosumis a clumping fern with leaves up to 1 m long, apex of sterile pinnae narrowly acuminate, lanceolate ( [2]).


Acrostichum speciosum is a perennial, clumping, terrestrial fern, growing to 1.5m high with rhizomatous, often buttress-like roots.

The leaves are pinnate, lanceolate in shape, growing 1-3 m long, with a terminal leaflet. Leaflets are leathery in texture, dark green, narrowly oblong or lanceolate, 10-20 cm long and 2-3 cm wide with entire margins and a pointed tip.

The undersurface of fertile fronds is covered with brown, rust coloured sporangia (spore producing structure). The spores are large, tetrahedral, clear to translucent, 1-1.5 mm wide and buoyant ( [3], [1], [4]).

Botanical Description


Fern, perennial, ground living with clumped foliage, to 1.5 m; stem base of spreading cluster of leaf petioles; roots thick, rhizome scales lanceolate, border hyaline, 8 mm W, below ground.


Leaves once-pinnate, lanceolate pointed blade with a terminal leaflet, fronds erect to horizontal, to 1 m L; early simple leaf blades lanceolate, short, distinctly dark green in colour; leaflets (pinnae) coriaceous, dark green, narrowly oblong or lanceolate, each around 10-20 cm L, 2-3 cm W, margins entire, apex narrowly acuminate-acute, stalked; venation reticulate without free vein endings; petiolar scales broad, restricted to base of frond; stipules tufted, cartilaginous.


Fertile fronds with most or only a few distal pinnae with undersurface uniformly covered with rusty brown sporangia when fertile, mixed with capitate paraphyses; sporangia large includes spore.


Spores large, tetrahedral, clear to translucent, 1-1.5 mm W, buoyant.



Acrostichum speciosum AVH.JPG
Distribution of Acrostichum speciosum in Australia.
Image: Australia's Virtual Herbarium, 2010

Acrostichum speciosum is restricted to the tropical Indo-West Pacific, extending from Asia to Australia and the western Pacific. Regional distributions however are not well described because of continuing confusion with like species, A. aureum. In Australia, only A. speciosum is recorded, and it is located in coastal habitats along the north coast from around Sandfire Roadhouse, Western Australia (19° 44' S, 121° 11’ E) in the west, across the Northern Territory and Queensland, to Iluka, Clarence River, New South Wales (29° 26' S, 153° 22’ E) in the east ( [2]).

Localities (not complete):
Lucinda-01-P1-2 3.jpg
Acrostichum speciosum, Lucinda, QLD.
Photo: Busby, J. © ANBG


Found in mangroves, tidal flats, brackish swamps and on coastal cliffs. In mangroves it is usually found in colonies or clumps on the landward margin in high intertidal zones where there is some freshwater input. Soils include sands, muds and organic loams ( [3]; [4]). Also recorded as growing on the periphery of or occasionally within saltmarshes in Queensland [7].

High intertidal, intermediate estuarine position [2].


Spores are produced on the backs of leaves throughout the year ( [3]).

In Australia, fertile fronds were recorded for November, and mature shedding sporangia in late summer from February to June [2].

In the Northern Territory fertile fronds are produced from August to April, and mature sporelings are copious from January to April. The majority of sporlings perish during the dry season ( [8]cited in [4]).

Acrostichum speciosum can dominate in areas that have undergone disturbance ( [3]).

Commonly associated with Avicennia marina, Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Dalbergia candenatensis, Diospyros compacta, D. littorea and Lumnitzera racemosa ( [4]).

Biological Interactions
Group Taxon
  31 taxa
Vascular Plants Acanthus ilicifolius
Vascular Plants Aegiceras corniculatum
Vascular Plants Avicennia marina
Vascular Plants Bruguiera cylindrica
Vascular Plants Bruguiera exaristata
Vascular Plants Bruguiera gymnorhiza
Vascular Plants Bruguiera parviflora
Vascular Plants Bruguiera sexangula
Vascular Plants Camptostemon schultzii
Vascular Plants Ceriops tagal
Vascular Plants Ceriops pseudodecandra
Vascular Plants Cynometra iripa
Vascular Plants Dalbergia candenatensis
Vascular Plants Diospyros compacta
Vascular Plants Diospyros geminata
Vascular Plants Diospyros littorea
Vascular Plants Excoecaria agallocha
Vascular Plants Heritiera littoralis
Vascular Plants Hibiscus_tiliaceus
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera littorea
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera racemosa
Vascular Plants Nypa fruticans
Vascular Plants Osbornia octodonta
Vascular Plants Rhizophora apiculata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora X lamarckii
Vascular Plants Rhizophora mucronata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora stylosa
Vascular Plants Scyphiphora hydrophylacea
Vascular Plants Sonneratia caseolaris
Vascular Plants Xylocarpus granatum
Vascular Plants Xylocarpus moluccensis


In Vietnam, Acrostichum speciosum is the preferred fuel for domestic cooking, the young leaves are eaten in times or hardship and the crushed rhizome is used to treat wounds and boils ( [9] cited in [4]). The fronds have been used as high quality thatch by the Malayans ( [10] cited in [4]).

For further enthnbotanical information see Wightman 2006.

Similar Species

Acrostichum speciosum is distinguished from A. aureum L. by its smaller growth form in all its parts, plus early simple leaves being lanceolate, relatively short blade with sterile pinnae gradually tapering to a narrow acuminate point. The species is further distinguished by its apparent restriction to tidal estuarine and saline environments. However, in some locations, A. speciosum, may inhabits freshwater seepages beyond the upper mangrove fringe ( [2]]).

Lucinda-01-P1-1 3.jpg
Acrostichum speciosum, Lucinda, QLD.
Photo: Busby, J. © ANBG

The Aquatic Pteridophytes of New Guinea. Australian National Botanic Gardens: http://www.anbg.gov.au/fern/aquatic/pteridaceae.html

Flora of Australia Online: http://www.anbg.gov.au/abrs/online-resources/flora/stddisplay.xsql?pnid=56834

PlantNET. NSW Flora online: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Acrostichum~speciosum http://www.anbg.gov.au/fern/aquatic/pteridaceae.html

FloraBase. The Western Australian Flora: http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/44

Lucinda-01-M1 3.jpg
Acrostichum speciosum, Lucinda, QLD.
Photo: Busby, J. © ANBG


  1. Duke, N.C. (2006). Australia's Mangroves. The authoritative guide to Australia's mangrove plants. University of Queensland, Brisbane. (more)
  2. Duke, N. (2011). Mangroves of Australia. Manuscript. Vers.: 27 Sept 2011. (more)
  3. Lovelock, C. (1993). Field Guide to the Mangroves of Queensland. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Qld. Available online: http://www.aims.gov.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c9dcfc2e-6018-4302-8818-5ab3fe01f91f&groupId=30301 (more)
  4. Wightman, G. (2006). Mangroves of the Northern Territory, Australia: identification and traditional use. Northern Territory. Dept. of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Palmerston. (more)
  5. Bunt, J.S. (1982b). Mangrove Transect Data from Northern Queensland. Coastal Studies Series, Australian Institute of Marine Science AIMS-CS-82-1. Australian Institute of Marine Science. 41 p. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=2326 (more)
  6. Bunt, J.S. (1997). The Mangrove Floral and Vegetational Diversity of Hinchinbrook Island and the Adjacent Coast. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=3018 (more)
  7. Johns, L. (2006). Field Guide to Common Saltmarsh Plants of Queensland. Dept Primary Industries and Fisheries, Qld. Most content available online: (more)
  8. Short, P., Dixon, D. and Osterkamp Madsen, M. (2003). A review of the ferns and fern allies of the Northern Territory. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 19: 7-80 (more)
  9. Hong, Phan Nguyen and San, Hoang Thi (1993). Mangroves of Vietnam IUCN, Bangkok (more)
  10. Watson, J.G. (1928). Mangrove forests of the Malay Peninsula. Malayan Forest Records 6. Federated Malay States Government, Kuala Lumpur. (more)

Biological Interactions
Relation Taxon GroupSorted ascending
OccursWith Acanthus_ilicifolius Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Aegiceras_corniculatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Avicennia_marina Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_cylindrica Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_exaristata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_gymnorhiza Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_parviflora Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_sexangula Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Camptostemon_schultzii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Ceriops_pseudodecandra Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Ceriops_tagal Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Cynometra_iripa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Dalbergia_candenatensis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_compacta Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_geminata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Diospyros_littorea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Excoecaria_agallocha Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Heritiera_littoralis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Hibiscus_tiliaceus Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_littorea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_racemosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Nypa_fruticans Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Osbornia_octodonta Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_X_lamarckii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_apiculata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_mucronata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_stylosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Scyphiphora_hydrophylacea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Sonneratia_caseolaris Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Xylocarpus_granatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Xylocarpus_moluccensis Vascular_Plants