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Psilotum nudum (L.) Griseb.
Common Name: Psilotum, Skeleton Fork Fern
Description: Plants epiphytic or terrestrial. Rhizome creeping, branched, often clumped. Stems 10–65 cm long; branches subterete, the largest c. 3 mm diam., with 3–7 ribs; stomata restricted to the furrows between the ribs; scale-like leaves 1–2.5 mm long, yellowish, restricted to the ribs. Synangia 1.5–2.5 mm diam., sessile, yellow.
Diagnostic Characters: This herbaceous rock-loving species is a rather unusual looking on account of its branching angular stems that appear at a distance to be leafless. Sterile leaves are actually present but are scale-like and unlobed. Plants never produce flowers but have reproductive structures that are superficially like the fruit of some flowering plants. These stalkless 3-lobed fruit-like structures are fused spore-bearing sporangia and appear along the distal branches in the axils of 2-lobed scale leaves.
Whole plant (or habit)
Image: B.G. Thomson
Leaves & flowers &/or fruit
Image: M. Osterkamp
Image: D.E. Albrecht


  • Legend:
  • Specimen Icon Specimens
  • Observation Icon Observations
  • Specimen Cultivar Icon Cultivated
Introduced Status: Native to NT
Distribution Notes: Australia: WA, NT, Qld, NSW, Vic. Localities in the Darwin region include Black Jungle and springs on Brian Creek (Wildman River Station).
Bioregion: Arnhem Coast, Arnhem Plateau, Burt Plain, Darwin Coastal, Gulf Coastal, Gulf Fall and Uplands, Gulf Plains, MacDonnell Ranges, Ord Victoria Plain, Tiwi Cobourg, Victoria Bonaparte, Wet Tropics
International: Widespread in the tropics and subtropics of the world and sometimes extending to temperate regions and, in areas of permanent water, arid regions.

Habitat: The species is common in monsoonal rainforest, where it may be epiphytic, and in permanent seepage areas in the Top End. Also found in southern regions in seepage areas and waterholes.

Ecological Attributes

Flowering: Fertile throughout the year.
Fruiting: Fertile throughout the year.

Other Attributes

Conservation Status (TPWCA): Least Concern
Restricted Range Taxon: N
NT Parks: Black Jungle / Lambells Lagoon Conservation Reserve, Djukbinj National Park, Judbarra / Gregory National Park, Kakadu National Park, Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park, Watarrka National Park
Flora Description Source: Flora of the Darwin Region
Taxonomic Literature: Short, P., Dixon, D. and Osterkamp Madsen, M. 2003, A review of ferns and fern allies of the Northern Territory, The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, vol. 19, p. 11-12.


Division Collection: Soft, regrowth, from actively growing plants current seasons growth. Store or transport wrapped in wet newspaper and sealed in plastic bag with a little water, in refridgerator. (Alice Springs Desert Park)
Division Propagation General: Pot into general potting media. Protect newly potted divisions from high heat and wind and ensure the media does not dry out. (Alice Springs Desert Park).

Flora Source:

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