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Family Polypodiaceae
Serpent fern
Monarch fern
Phymatosorus scolopendria (Burm.f.) Pic. Serm.

Liu jue

Scientific names Common names
Arostichum obtusifolium Willd. Creeping fern (Engl.)
Chrysopteris longipes Link Lizard's foot (Engl.)
Chrysopteris peltidea Link Maile-scented fern (Engl.)
Chrysopteris phymatodes Link Monarch fern (Engl.)
Chrysopteris terminalis Link Musk fern (Engl.)
Drynaria alternifolia (Willd.) Brack. Serpent fern (Engl.)
Chrysopteris longipes J.Sm. Wart fern (Engl.)
Microsorum alternifolium (Willd.) Copel.  
Microsorum scolopendria (Burm.f.) Copel.  
Phymatodes banerjiana S.Pal & N.Pal  
Phymatodes longipes J.Sm.  
Phymatodes peltidea J.Sm.  
Phymatodes phymatodes (L.) Maxon  
Phymatodes scolopendria (Burm.f.) Ching  
Phymatodes terminalis J.Sm.  
Phymatodes vulgaris C. Presl  
Phymatosorus banerjianus (S.Pal & N.Pal) Pic.Serm.  
Pleopeltis alternifolia (Willd.) T.Moore  
Pleopeltis phymatodes T. Moore  
Pleopeltis schneideri Alderw.  
Polypodiium alternifolium Willd.  
Polypodiium alternifolium Link.  
Polypodiium excavatum Roxb.  
Polypodiium fuentesii Hicken  
Polypodiium immersum Vahl.  
Polypodiium longipes Link  
Polypodiium madagascariense Desv.  
Polypodiium peltideum Link  
Polypodiium phymatodes Linn.  
Polypodium scolopendrium Burm. f.  
Polypodiium scutifrons Bojer  
Polypodiium terminale Spreng. ex Kunze  
Pteris lobata Roxb.  
Microsorum scolopendria (Burm.f.) Copel is a synonym of Phymatosorus scolopendria (Burm.f.) Pic. The Plant List
Phymatosorus scolopendria (Burm.f.) Pic. Serm. is an accepted species. It has 36 synonyms. KEW: Plants of the World Onlline

Other vernacular names
BENIN: Dogoman.
CHUUKESE: Chiichi, Wennumey.
FIJIAN: Kadakada, Vativati.
FRENCH: Pat lezar, Patte de lezard.
JAPANESE: Oknawa ura-boshi
KIRIBATI: Te keang.
KOSRAEAN: Sra kwem kwem.
MALAYSIAN: Paku wangi, Sakat hitam.
POHNPEIAN: Kidou, Kitti.
SAMOAN: Lau 'auta, Lau maga maga, Alofilima.
TONGAN: Laufale.
VIETNAMESE: Ráng o chìm luoi hươu
YAP: Gob, M'ong.

Note: The pages on Monarch fern and Serpent fern have been merged together.

Serpent fern is an epiphyte with wide, creeping and glabrous rhizomes. Stipes are scattered, 5- to 40 centimeters long, and naked. Fronds are shiny green, variable in size, from simple lanceolate to deeply pinnatifid, 10 to 40 centimeters long. Costae are prominent, but the venation is hardly visible. Sori are very large, shallowly immersed and conspicuous on the upper surface, in single rows along the main veins, or scattered, but not numerous.

- Native to the Philippines.
- Commonly distributed in the Philippines, growing in the crown or trunks of trees and on rocks along streams, at low and medium altitudes.
- Also found from Polynesia to Africa.

- Contains glycirrhizin and saponin.
- An excellent source of ecdysone (0.16% of dry weight) and 20-hydroxyecdysone (0.20%), and significant amounts of makisterones a and C (0.01-0.02%), inokosterone and amarasterone A, along with lower amounts of poststerone and a compound tentatively identified as 24,28‐diepi‐cyasterone. Study also isolated three new minor phytoecdysteroids viz. 20‐deoxymakisterone A, a 25(?)‐epimer of amarasterone A and 25‐deoxyecdysone 22‐glucoside. (1)
- Study showed ecdysteroids concentration of 11.17 mg/g in rhizomes and 4.69 mg/g in fronds. Rhizomes yielded six ecdysteroids with two major components of 20-hydroxyecdysone (6.76 mg/g) and ecdysone (3/41 mg/g) at concentrations 3 and 2.5 times higher than corresponding fronds. Other phytoecdysteroids (mg/g dw) were inokosterone 0.42, makisterone A 0.24, 2-deoxy-20-hydroxyecdysone 0.09, and makisterone C 0.25. (9)
- GC-MS study of methanolic extract yielded four phytoconstituents, namely dodecanoic acid, 1,2,3-propanetriyl ester (8.98%), myristic acid vinyl ester (53.29%), 4-nitrophenyl laurate (26.91%) and hexadecanoic acid, 4-nitrophenyl ester (10.82%). (10)

- Fronds are fragrant.
- Considered diaphoretic, aromatic and aperative.

- Studies have suggest antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, bronchodilatory properties.

Parts used
Roots, branches, leaves.

- In Indo-China, the Annamites are reported to use the young leaves of the fern for chronic diarrhea. (3)
- In New Guinea, plant is heated over fire and the smoke inhaled to relieve catarrh. In Tonga, leaf or bark infusion used to treat filariasis in infants. Pounded leaves applied to boils. (6)
- In Samoa, frond used in treated of headaches and stomach catarrh. Lotion of fronts used on wounds, sores, and abscesses. Pounded leaves mixed with young coconut pulp used as poultice for arthritis. Pounded leaves in coconut oil used in massage to induce postnatal discharge.(6)
- In the Cook Islands, crushed rhizomes used to treat fistula and other internal ailments. Also used as purgative. (6)
- In Fiji, leaf juice used to treat stomachache, breast swelling associated with breastfeeding, and boils Infusion of leaves and roots taken by women as postpartum tonic. Infusion of leaves used for postpartum depression. Infusion of stem used for fish poisoning. (6
- Mixed leaves decoction of Phymatosorus scolopendria and Hoya australis used as postpartum tonic and to treat body aches and headaches. (7)
- In Madagascar, used to treat respiratory disorders.
- In Indo-China, young leaves of the fern used in chronic diarrhea. (3)
- In Polynesia, the leaves are pounded and mixed with scrapings from Atuna racemose to make perfume. On Ifaluk, leaves are traditionally used the cover the private parts of young girls; mashed leaves are wrapped with Lei (Morinda citradolia), cooked and used as medical bandage. (13)
- In Samoa, infusion of scraped rhizome and/or crushed leaves taken as a potion for various kinds of inflammation; also applied to skin for infected or slow-healing wounds. (14)
- In Kosrae, light green leaves chewed to stop diarrhea. (15)
- In Benin, sold in markets as an anti-hemorrhagic plant. (16)
- Decorative: In Hawaii used to scent tapa cloth, to adorn hula altars and dancers, and used for making lei.
- Repellent: Young fronds are spread on the sped to keep off bed bugs. (3)
- Fragrance: Fronds used to perfume clothes and coconut oil. (6) In Polynesia, the leaves are pounded and mixed with scrapings from Atuna racemose to make perfume.
- Good luck frond: In Yap, the glossy green fronds are tied to outriggers of canoes for good luck when fishing. (8)
- Rituals: In Pohnpei, used by young dancers as a mwaramwar (head garlands)--the erect crown of fronds act as a "fence" to protect against ghosts brought on the dancers or as protection against any magic being cast on them. (15)

Ecdysteroids: Study showed M scolopendria is an excellent source of ecdysone (0.16% of dry weight) and 20-hydroxyecdysone (0.20% dw), and also significant amounts(0.01-0.02%) of makisterones A and C, inokosterone and amarasterone A. along with lower amounts of poststerone and a compound identified as 24,28-diepi-cyasterone. Study also yielded three minor phytoecdysteroids, namely 20-deoxymakisterone A, a 25(?)-epimer of amasrasterone A and 25-deoxyecdysone 22-glucoside. The ecdysteroids are considered to be responsible for some of the medicinal properties. (1)
Bronchodilator: Bioassay-guided fractionation using guinea pig trachea pre-contracted with histamine led to isolation of 1,2-benzopyrone (coumarin) as main active constituent. It induced a concentration dependent relaxation of histamine pre-contracted guinea pig trachea, and provoked 100% relaxation at 72.10 µg/ml.  The bronchodilator effect of coumarin is partly due to the endothelium-dependent tracheal relaxatiom, and may be mediated through a non-specific tracheal relaxation. (11)
Antioxidant / Antimicrobial / Anti-Inflammatory Effects / Rhizome and Leaf: Study evaluated the radical scavenging, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties of Microsorum scolopendria rhizome and leaf extracts. The most abundant compounds were phenolic acids, 46 - 57% in rhizome and leaf extracts, respectively; followed by flavonoids protocatechic acid 4-O-glucoside, cirsimaritin, and isoxanthohumol, among others. MS extract inhibited and disaggregated bacterial biofilm formed and showed selective anti-inflammatory activity against COX-2 enzyme. RAE generated 64% reduction of ROS formation in the presence of S. aureus and 87.35% less ROS in the presence of S. epidermis on HDFa cells. (12)


© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D. / StuartXchange

Updated April 2023 / July 2018 / November 2012

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: / Photograph: File: Monarch fern / Mokkie / 28 March 2014 / click on image to go to source page / Wikimedia Commons

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Ecdysteroids from the medicinal fern Microsorum scolopendria (Burm. f.) / Eva Snogan, Isabelle Vahirua-Lecha, Raimana Ho, Gildas Berth, Jean-Pierre Girault, Sophie Ortiga, Annick Maria, Rene Lafont / Phytochemical Analysis, Sept 2007; Volume 18, Issue 5: pp 441 - 450 / DOI 10.1002/pca.1000
Phymatosorus scolopendria (Burm. f.) Pic. Serm. / Chinese names and synonyms / Catalogue of Life, China
A Review on the Potential Uses of Ferns / M. Mannar Mannan, M. Maridass and B.Victor / Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 281-285. 2008.
Microsorum scolopendria / National Tropical Botanical Garden
Phymatosorus scolopendria / KEW: Plants of the World Online
Phymatosorus scolopendria / Medicinal Plants in the South Pacific / WHO Regional Publication, Wester Pacific Series No. 19
Fijian Medicinal Plants / RC Cambie, J Ash / Csiro Publ. / EBook
Traditional uses of plants for fishing in Micronesia / Dr Mark Merlin / Biology Program, University of Hawai’i at Manoa /
SPC Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin # 11 – November 2002
Phytoecdysteroids in the Genus Microsorum (Polypodiaceae) of French Polynesia / Raimana Ho, Taivini Teai, Denis Loquet, Jean-Pierre Bianchini, Jean-Pierre Girault, René Lafont & Phila Raharivelomanana / Natural Product Communications, 2007; Vol 2, No 8: pp 8803-806
ANALYSIS OF BIOACTIVE COMPOUNDS PRESENT IN METHANOLIC EXTRACT OF PHYMATOSORUS SCOLOPENDRIA (BURM. F.) PIC. SERM. THROUGH GAS CHROMATO- GRAPHY AND MASS SPECTROSCOPY / S Sujatha, S Catharin Sara, M Gayathiri, I Ramya Roseliin, R Gnana Deepa Ruby / International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 2020; 11(7): pp 3294-3299 / eISSN: 0975-8232 / pISSN: 2320-5148  / DOI: 10.13040/IJPSR.0975-8232.11(7).3294-3299
Bronchodilator activity of Phymatodes scolopendria (Burm.) Ching and its bioactive constituent / D Ramanitrahasimbola, D A Rakotondramanana, P Rasoanaivo et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2005;p 102(3): pp 400-407 /  DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2005.06.037
Chemistry and Bioactivity of Microsorum scolopendria(Polypodiaceae): Antioxidant Effects on an Epithelial Damage Model / Cristobal Balada, Valentina Diaz, Monica Castro, Macarena Echeverria-Bugueño, Maria Jose Marchant, Leda Guzman / Molecules, 27(17) / DOI: 10.3390/molecules27175467
Phymatosorus scolopendria - Polypodiaceae / People and Plants of Micronesia
Samoan Herbal Medicine 
Microsporum scolopendria / Lee Ling / Botany Home Page
Medicinal Plants Sold as Anti-Haemorrhagic in the Cotonou and Abomey-Calavi Markets (Benin) / J. R. Klotoe et al / International Journal of Biology, 2018; 19(1) / DOI: 10.5539/ijb.v10n1p17 / pISSN: 1916-9671 / eISSN: 1915-968X

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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