HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT

Family Psilotaceae
Whisk fern
Psilotum nudum (L.) P. Beauv.

Scientific names Common names
Bernhardia antillarum Müll. Hal. Psilotum (Engl.)
Bernhardia deppeana Müll. Hal. Whisk fern (Engl.)
Lycopodium nudum L. Skeleton fork fern (Engl.)
Psilotum domingense Gand.  
Psilotum floridanum Michx.  
Psilotum nudum (L.) P. Beauv.  
Psilotum triquetrum Sw.  
Tristeca nuda (L.) P. Beauv. ex J. St.-Hil.  
Psilotum nudum (L.) P. Beauv. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
FIJIIAN: Lawelawe.
NIUE: Toa vao.
TOKELAU: Fale'o te kimoa.
TONGAN: Limu, Toa tahi.

Nudum In Latin, means "bare naked." Its English name derives from time past, when a handful of the branches are tied together to make into a small broom.

Psilotum nudum is a herbaceious, rootless, perennial, terrestrial or epiphytic fern with branched creeping rhizomes. Stems are two-forked. Forked branches are slender, green, flat , triangular fruiting with minute pointed scale-like leaves. Spore-producing organs consist of three fused globular capsules in the forks of branchlets.

- In the Philippines, found in forests at low and medium altitudes, in rockwalls and cliff crevices, and tree trunks.
- In gardens, usually attached to trunk of tree ferns or dead trees.
- Occasionally planted in pots or hanging baskets.
- Widely distributed in the tropics.

- Plant yields flavonoids and sugars.
- Yields amentoflavone, and its glycoside, apignenin glycoside, meta- and para-coumaric acids, gibberelin, lipids, psilotic acid, psilotin, and psilotin epoxides, hydroxy psilotins. (

Parts used


- Leaves reportedly used for making tea.
- No reported medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Spores used medicinally as a purgative.
- Stem infusion used as laxative or cathartic and for pain relief Infusion also used as remedy for thrush. (4)
- In Hawaii, spores collected and used like talcum powder, under the loincloth, to avoid chafing. Also used in making of leis.

Antimicrobial / Fronds:
Study investigated the antimicrobial properties of extracts and fractions of three selected ferns viz. P. nudum, N. bisserata, and N. cordifolia. Water and ethanol fractions showed activity against most of the tested bacterial and fungal strains. Results suggest the pteridophytes could be a good source of antimicrobials. (3)

- Wild-crafted.
- Ornamental cultivation.

Updated May 2017
May 2011

IMAGE SOURCE: Psilotum nudum / File:Psilotum.jpg / Eric Gunther / GNU Free Documentation License / Wikimedia Commons
IMAGE SOURCE: Psilotum nudum / File:Psilotum nudum Sydney Opera House.JPG / Peter Woodard / 29 Oct 2010 / Public Domain / Wikipedia

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Psilotum nudum / Customary Medicinal Knowledge Base
Psilotum nudum / Synonyms / The Plant List
In Vitro Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties of Aqueous and Non-Aqueous Frond Extracts of Psilotum nudum, Nephrolepis biserrata and Nephrolepis cordifolia / Dolly Rani, P. B. Khare, and P. K. Dantu / Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Nov-Dec; 72(6): 818–822. / doi: 10.4103/0250-474X.84606
Psilotum nudum / Medicinal Plants in the South Pacific / WHO Regional Publications: Western Pacific Series No. 19

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.

HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT