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Economic Importance of Pteridophytes

Economic Importance of Pteridophytes

Economic Importance of Pteridophytes

Pteridophytes as food

Ferns are found to be good source of starch, greens and additives. Starch has been obtained from pulpy apical part of the caudex of certain species of Cyathea, Angiopteris and maratia. Sporocarps of Marsilea drummondi (Australian swamp fem) are grounded into paste to prepare bread. These are considered to be starvation food used by tribals in various parts of the world. Fern greens like fresh uncurled frond of Diplazium esculentum, Pneumatopteris sorgerensis are sold in low land markets in New Guinea. Diplazium is eaten in Philippines and in Malaysia. Other freshly edible ferns are Ampelopteris prolifera, Angiopteris evceta, Ceratopteris, Pteridium esculentum, Helminthostachys etc. Rhizone of Blechnum orientale and pith of Cyathea khasyana, C. niligrensis, C. spinulosa and many other species are cooked and eaten by tribals in many parts of the country.. A salt has been prepared from the residual ash of Asplenium atrobryum (Croft & Leach, 1984) that contain higher percentage of Potassium.

Pteriodophytes as fibre, handicraft & construction Material

Several species of ferns produce soft, sultry hairs on its surface that are being used to stuff pillows I many parts of the world. These species include Cystodium sorbifolium, Ceiba pentandra etc. Stem of Cyathea magna, C. angienis are used as picket fences in the highlands of New Guinea. Stems and rachises of ferms are often reinforced with strong sclerotic vascular strands or the outer layer itself is extremely tough and durable. Therefore several tree ferns are good fencing material. Even baskets are being made from Lygosdium stems. Equentidebile is used to clean cooking and dining utensil. The stem of this plant contains crystals of silica and fine abrasive action of the crystals make it useful cleaning agent.

Pteriodophytes as Horticultural Plants and ritual items

Pteridophytes specially ferms occupy a special place almost in all green houses and gardens. Leafless green dichotomously branched “whisk-fern” Psilotum is one of the common plants every one likes to have in their

surroundings. In urban gardens, ornamental ferns are common. Tree ferns Cyathea contaminans, C. feline and C. magna are encouraged to grow in gardens in many parts of world. Ferns like Angioperis and Marattia are of high aesthetic value. They find their place in garden because of their beautiful appearance and eloquence.

Ferns are often used as personal decoration materials, either casually or for ceremonial occasions. Wagner & Grether (1948) showed that Selaginella and Dicranopteris are two such species. Lycopodium is used as head dress ornamentation on ceremonial occasions.

Almost every garden has plants like several species of Nephrolepis and Pityrogamma calomelanas (the silver backed ferm), although these are present as reasonably attractive weeds rather than actively encouraged. “Maiden hair fern”- Adiantum cuneatum, A. tenerum. A. trapeziform and other cultivar varieties often supplement the garden beauty.

Various species of Selaginella have been used by green houses as border plants. S. lepidophylla is sold as dried plant on roadsides local marketsand the plant rejuvenates once gets wet with water. Another pteridophyte i.e. Lycopodium has the status of Ground ring as far as horticultural aspects are concerned. Both the pendulous epiphytic Lycopods as well as creepers the ground Lycopods (Club moss) has aesthetic values. Lycopodium is being used on various ceremonial occasions.

Pteridophytes as weed

Salvinia– The waterfern is one of the trouble some and dangerous weeds that propagates very easily in any water reservoir. It can block free flow of water. This plant has long been known as a pest in tropical and sub-tropical countries (Anon, 1979, Kleinchmidt, 1973, Wild, 1961). It eradication by physical means is quit difficult or impossible. Introduction of save predators (Hentry & Perichard, 1982) as it biological control agent would help to reduce its growth and multiplication in water bodies. Terrestrial fernweeds, like Pteridium sp., Sphaerostephanos, Christella, Nephrolepis etc. are also some of the troublesome weeds because of their habit of quick spreading by long creeping rhizomes. The barken fern, Pteridium aquilinum is capable of rapid colonization of bare grounds by establishment of numerous sporelings, especially after fire (Gliessman, 1978) and this is a particular problem in tropical regions where the burning of grasslands is a common practice. The plant is toxic to livestock although the animals seem to do poorly in areas heavily infested with bracken ferns.

Pteridophyte as Biofertilizer

Azolla– a heterosporous water fern which contains endophytic cyanobacterium Anabaena azollae in its leaf cavity, used as biofertilizer in rice fields. Out of six known species of Azolla (A niloticas, A. mexicanas A. microphylla, A. rubra, A. pinnata & A caroliniana). A. pinnata is common in our country. A rice farmer is sure of at least two good successive crops whenever Azolla plants in full bloom occupy the rice fields. It is referred as goddess of fertility. Its maximum cultivation is being done in nurseries (microplast 20m) which were harvested and dried to be used as green manuring. Mostly in rice fields it can be used either prior to rice plantation or after transplantation of rice followed by water drainage and incorporation of Azolla (Singh, 1980). Azolla is also a heavy metal resistant plant and shows good tolerance against heavy metals viz. As, Hg, Pb, Cu, Cd, Cr etc.

Pteridophyte as Medicines

While going through the literature available on medicinal use of plants many names of pteridophytes come across which are being used in medical purposes. It has been known since time immemorial that Dryopteris filixmas, a fern has been used for the treatment of tapeworm. Almost all parts of the plant be it root, stem or frond of pteridophytes are being used as medicine. Some important diseases and their treatment with pteridophytes are being discussed here.

Stomach pains

Holdsworth and Giheno (1955) record that a species of Lycopodium is chewed in the central high land of new Guinea to induce vomiting after food poisoning or acute stomach ache. Lycopodium clavatum as well as Lygodium longifolium are used for treatments of stomach ache and diarrhoea.

Fever, headaches & colds

Pteridium aquilinum is used to treat tooth ache and mouth infection (Powell, 1976 b). Leaves of Cyclosorus is used for treatment of nasal infection. Selaginella flabellata is sued to control fever, headaches and menstruation (Blackwood, 1935).

Boils, Ulcers, Wounds

Futscher (1959) reports Gleichenia linearis (Dicranopteris linearis) is being bound externally onto wounds. Leaves of Pteris ensiformis and Aspidiu latifolium and roots of Dryopteris milneana are being applied to boils, ulcers and arrow wounds. Hot fronds of Polystichum sp. are applied to groin swellings by tribals, Frond of fleshy terrestrial fern Angiopteris evecta was bound on to fractured limbs in same countries (Scheifenhovel, 1978).

Menstruation, childbirth & contraception

Pteris ensiformis is used to control menstruation whereas Pteris tripartita is used internally during child birth in Bougainville. Lycodium dichotomum is used as a contraceptive, the roots and stem being taken internally.

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