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Niphidium crassifolium


Niphidium crassifolium, commonly known as the graceful fern, is a species of fern in the Polypodiaceae family found in Central and South America. It is predominantly epiphytic, growing on other plants—for example, in the canopies of trees—but occasionally grows on rocks or on the ground, particularly at higher altitude.<ref name=lellinger/> It has a rhizome from which many fine rootlets covered in dark reddish-brown scales grow.<ref name="Croat1978">Template:Cite book</ref> Together they form a root basket that, when growing on trees, helps to trap leaf litter and dust, forming a nutrient-rich soil that holds water.<ref name="Leigh1999">Template:Cite book</ref> Its leaves are simple in shape, Template:Convert long and Template:Convert wide and when dry, and covered by a wax-like film. The sori are round and large, occurring in single rows between veins at the far end of the leaf.<ref name="Croat1978"/>


A closeup of the underside of a frond of N. crassifolium, showing the sori

N. crassifolium was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 as Polypodium crassifolium. In 1972, David B. Lellinger moved the species into the genus Niphidium.<ref name=lellinger/> It can be difficult to distinguish from N. albopunctatissimum, but that species has narrower leaves and is mostly found growing on rocks or on the ground, as well as occupying a different range.<ref name="HoshizakiMoran2001">Template:Cite book</ref>


Niphidium crassifolium is found in Central and South America, from Mexico in the north to Peru in the south and including Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and the West Indies.<ref name="Croat1978"/> It grows at altitudes up to Template:Convert above sea level and over a wide range of humidity.<ref name="Nieder2001">Template:Cite book</ref> According to Thomas Croat, it is probably the most common fern found on Barro Colorado Island, Panama.<ref name="Croat1978"/> Niphidium crassifolium is known to grow on Socratea exorrhiza, occurring on 12% of individuals on Barro Colorado Island.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> It is also known to grow on Platypodium elegans, Ceiba pentandra, Tabebuia guayacan and Anacardium excelsum.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>


This species uses crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), whereby it stores some carbon dioxide produced by respiration at night and releases this for use in photosynthesis the next day, but the overall contribution of this is small compared to that of true CAM plants such as cacti. Under drought stress, the contribution of CAM increases from 2.7% of total carbon fixation to 10%.<ref name="MehltreterWalker2010">Template:Cite book</ref> The production of gametophytes is determined by light levels rather than by a hormone.<ref name="Raghavan1989">Template:Cite book</ref>


N. crassifolium can be cultivated, growing well in well drained soil under medium light. It is reported to be able to survive consecutive days of freezing temperatures down to Template:Convert.<ref name="HoshizakiMoran2001"/> In Northern Peru the fresh stem is used in traditional medicine to treat inflammation of internal organs.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>



Further reading

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