Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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GIANT SWORD FERN
Threatened Florida species
A large fern of South Florida swamps and wet hammocks. Occasional from Lake Okeechobee southward, excluding the Keys, also occurring in Highlands County. The range includes Louisiana, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Living up to its name, giant sword fern grows up to head height and forms clumps, also sometimes epiphytic in cypress and pop ash swamps. The fronds can be from .35 - 2 m (14 in. to 6-1/2 ft.) tall and 3-35 cm (1-14 in.) wide. The petiole is from 15-55 cm (6-22 in.) long and sparsely to moderately covered with reddish to light brown hair-like scales. The rachis is pale to dark brown, also with moderately spaced scales with the pinnae spaced up to 3.5 cm (1-1/3 in.) apart. The pinnae are oblong to narrowly deltate with a small lobe on both sides at the base. These auricles are sometimes inconspicuous. The sori are contained in circular to horseshoe shaped indusia along the underside margin of the pinnae.
Nephrolepis biserrata is listed as threatened in Florida. Some place all of the sword ferns in their own family Nephrolepidaceae.