Cyathea capensis

Janssen, Thomas & Rakotondrainibe, France, 2008, A revision of the indusiate scaly tree ferns (Cyatheaceae, Cyathea subgen. Alsophila sect. Alsophila) in Madagascar, the Comoros and the Seychelles, Adansonia (3) 30 (2), pp. 221-376: 330-332

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Cyathea capensis


34. Cyathea capensis   (L.f.) Sm.

( Fig 44I)

Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences (Turin) 5: 417 (1793); Sim, Ferns of South Africa (ed. 2): 85, pl. 7 (1915); Schelpe, Flora Zambesiaca, Pteridophyta: 74, pl. 21d (1970); Holttum, Kew Bulletin 36: 470 (1981); Schelpe & Anthony, Flora of Southern Africa, Pteridophyta: 69, pl. 19 fig. 1 (1986); Burrows, Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies: 88 (1990); Roux, Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta: 86 (2001). — Polypodium capense   L.f., Supplementum Plantarum: 445 (1781). — Aspidium capense   (L.f.) Sw., Journal für die Botanik (Schrader) 1800 (2): 42 (1801). — Hemitelia capensis   (L.f.) Kaulf., Enumeratio Filicum: 253 (1824); Sim, Ferns of South Africa (ed. 2): 85 (1915). — Alsophila capensis   (L.f.) J.Sm., London Journal of Botany 1: 666 (1842); Tryon, Contributions from the Gray Herbarium 200: 30 (1970); Schelpe & Diniz, Flora de Moçambique, Pteridophyta: 74 (1979); Jacobsen, Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa: 202 (1983). — Polystichum capense   (L.f.) J.Sm., Curtis Botanical Magazine 72: 35 (1846). — Cormophyllum capense   (L.f.) Newman, Phytologist 5: 238 (1854). — Amphicosmia capensis   (L.f.) Klotzsch, Allgemeine Gartenzeitung 1856: 107 (1856). — Type: Cape of Good Hope, Sparrmann s.n. (holo-, LINN 1251/61).

Trichomanes incisum Thunb.   , Prodromus   Plantarum Capensium: 173 (1800). — Type: Cape Province, Grootvadersbosch, Thunberg s.n. (holo-, UPS). Cyathea riparia Willd.   , Species Plantarum (ed. 4) 5: 493 (1810). — Hemitelia riparia (Willd.) Desv., Prodrome   de la famille des Fougères   : 322 (1827). — Amphicosmia riparia (Willd.) Gardn.   , Journal of Botany (Hooker) 1: 441, pl. 12 (1842). — Type: Cape Province, Meuron s.n. (holo-, B-W 20172).

Trichomanes cormophyllum Kaulf., Enumeratio Filicum   : 266 (1824). — Type: hab. in promontorio bonae spei (not traced).

Cyathea humbertiana (C.Chr.) Domin, Acta Botanica Bohemica   9: 123 (1930); Christensen in Perrier, Catalogue des plantes de Madagascar, Ptéridophytes: 21 (1931), nom. nud.; Christensen, Dansk Botanisk Arkiv 7: 30, pl. 6 figs 1-3 (1932); Tardieu in Humbert, Flore de Madagascar et des Comores, IVe famille, Cyathéacées   : 22 (1951). — Hemitelia humbertiana C.Chr., Archives de Botanique (Caen)   , Bulletin mensuel 2 (12): 210 (1928). — Alsophila humbertiana (C.Chr.) R.M.Tryon, Contributions   from the Gray Herbarium 200: 30 (1970). — Type: Madagascar, massif de l’Andringitra (Iratsy), vallées de la Riambava et de l’Antsifotra et montagnes environnantes, 2000 m, XII.1924, Humbert 3749 (holo-, P! [P00404160]; iso-, P!).

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL EXAMINED. — South AFrica. Houteniqua, Breutel s.n. (P). — Cat. Geogr. Plant. Afr. Aust. Extratrop. 5862, Burcell s.n. (P). — Cap Bon Spei , Chamisso s.n. (P). — 1838-1839, Hennecart s.n. (P). — Cape Province, XI.1913, Peter 5314 (P). — Jonkers Hoek near Stellenbosch, 10.I.1948, Rodin 3253 (P)   .

Zimbabwe. Inyenga dist. , 1500 m, 25.VII.1957, Chase 6644A (P)   .


Cyathea capensis   is well characterized and distinct from all African and Western Indian Ocean taxa by the petiole base bearing one to several pairs of up to 15(-30)cm long aphlebia,the lamina being bipinnatepinnatifid with the margin of the pinnule segments distinctly serrate. Th e lateral veins in the segments are simple and one to two sori, covered with a big, hemitelioid indusium attached at the proximal side of the receptacle, are inserted near the costula on the midvein of each segment. Scattered bullate scales are present on the abaxial face of the costulae.

This short description is sufficient to recognize this characteristic species whose presence in Madagascar and the surrounding islands is doubtful. Full descriptions can be found in Holttum (1981), Schelpe & Anthony (1986), Burrows (1990) and other African floras.


Cyathea capensis   occurs in the Southwestern Cape Province along the coastal region of Southern Africa up to Southern Tanzania (fide Schelpe & Anthony 1986). A small population might have existed in Madagascar (see below). Cyathea capensis var. polypodioides (Sw.) Conant   occurs in SE Brazil.


Moist and forested ravines, shady mountain slopes, temperate forests, 1370-1800 m (fide Schelpe & Anthony 1986; Burrows 1990). In Madagascar putatively in forest remnants at 2000 m (Humbert in sched.).


Christensen (1928) describes the type of C. humbertiana   from Madagascar. Th e material is fragmentary, consisting of a single detached pinna, 30 × 12 cm in size. Th e description given is in perfect agreement with those of C. capensis   published in Holttum (1981), Schelpe & Anthony (1986) and Burrows (1990). Th e pinnae of several specimens of C. capensis   examined for comparison had bigger indusia, more distinctly serrate pinnule segments with adjacent segments more widely spaced and proximally decurrent as compared to Humbert 3749. This is most likely due to the fact that the pinnae of Humbert 3749 have been taken from the apical part of a leaf, and we here establish synonymy of C. humbertiana   with C. capensis   .


Humbert has collected in Kenya in 1924 and about 10 years later in Southern Africa. Although Humbert 3749 is within a number range from the Andringitra massif of Madagascar, we cannot exclude that the label became inadvertently associated with an erratic fragment originally from Africa. This is the more likely, as all other available specimens of Cyatheaceae   collected by Humbert are complete and annotated and Humbert 3749 would hence be an unusual specimen with respect to Humbert’s collecting standards.

Alternatively, a population of C. capensis   may indeed have been present in the Andringitra massif whose altitudinal climate is compatible with the ecological preferences of the species. A recent and thorough search for the plants at the locus classicus was, however, not successful as all forest remnants in the region were damaged by fire several years ago and are currently very much degraded. Thus, if C. capensis   existed in Madagascar and if the locus classicus of C. humbertiana C.Chr.   was its only locality, it is currently undoubtedly extinct on the island.

Phylogenetically, this taxon is sister to the Gymnosphaera   -clade ( Korall et al. 2007), corresponding to “Group I” of the present account, and not closely related to the other tripinnate Madagascan species ( Janssen et al. 2008). For the purpose of the present treatment it has nevertheless been included in the group of tripinnate taxa, i.e. “Group III”.














Cyathea capensis

Janssen, Thomas & Rakotondrainibe, France 2008

Alsophila humbertiana (C.Chr.) R.M.Tryon, Contributions

R. M. Tryon 1970: 30

Cyathea humbertiana (C.Chr.)

Domin 1930: 123

Amphicosmia riparia (Willd.)

Gardn. 1842: 441

Hemitelia riparia (Willd.)

Desv. 1827: 322

Trichomanes cormophyllum

Kaulf. 1824: 266

Trichomanes incisum

Thunb. 1800: 173