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Family: Anemiaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Polypodiales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • ANEMIA FAMILY - English, United States of America
  • FLOWERING FERN FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: The single local species has ± 1-pinnate leaves with 2 conspicuously different types of pinnae: 4–6 pairs of sterile pinnae and below these a pair of very long-stalked, bipinnate, fertile pinnae.


Notes: A family of 1 or 2 genera and ca. 119–124 species (Mickel 1993; Roux 1995) widespread in the tropics and subtropics, with most species in Anemia. The group has a long fossil history with Anemia being widespread by the early Cretaceous (Skog 2001). It is most closely related to the Schizaeaceae and then to Lygodiaceae, these two families and the Anemiaceae making up Order Schizaeales—this order is characterized by a unique type of sporangium—completely encircled near the tip by the annulus (= the group of cells involved in opening the sporangium) (Moran 2004). As a group, the Schizaeales are sometimes referred to as the “schizaeoid” ferns and are a sister group to the “so-called ‘core-leptosporangiates’- a large clade composed of heterosporous, tree, and polypod ferns” (Smith et al. 2008). The “schizaeoid” lineage is quite old, originating “possibly in the Triassic and definitely in the Jurassic” (Tidwell & Ash 1994). Fossil evidence suggests that the three main living genera of Schizaeales (Anemia, Lygodium, and Schizaea) are ancient, with these genera already established by the late Jurassic/early Cretaceous (Wikström et al. 2002; Hernandez-Castillo et al. 2006). Anemiaceae are sometimes included in the Schizaeaceae (e.g., Kramer 1990f). However, given the group’s long history and morphological distinctiveness, we are following Smith et al. (2006) in recognizing it as a distinct family. In addition to Anemia, the only other genus in the family, Mohria, has only 7 species (Roux 1995) and is restricted to Africa, Madagascar, and Réunion Island; it includes M. caffrorum (L.) Desv. (FRANKINCENSE FERN), a cultivated ornamental with scented fronds. Recent molecular evidence (e.g., Wikström et al. 2002) suggests that Mohria is a lineage within Anemia and should thus be included in that genus. The common name, FLOWERING FERN, is said to be used because the fertile structures of some species are “held erect above the sterile fronds, and are conspicuously covered with yellow to golden brown sporangia which can be quite showy …” (Nelson 2000). (Order Schizaeales)