Nephrolepis biserrata

Nephrolepis biserrata

Nephrolepis biserrata (Sw.) Schott  – A Natural Ground Cover Vegetation in Oil Palm Estates

Nephrolepis biserrata or broad sword fern is a terrestrial or epiphytic tropical fern, native to most parts of the tropical Southern Hemisphere. It is a large, erect, spreading, evergreen fern forming beautiful mounds of long, narrow, arching fronds that can reach 8 ft. (240 cm).  Its tall fronds quickly spreading from horizontal stolons.  

Below is the classification of N. biserrata

Division : Tracheophyta
Class : Polypodiopsida
Order : Polypodiales
Family : Nephrolepidaceae
Genus : Nephrolepis
Species : biserrate
English name : Broad sword fern
Malay name : Paku larat

N. biserrata is a common plant in oil palm estates. It grows well under partial shade or low light conditions such as interrow of mature oil palm.  It can also be found in terrace solders of plantings, vacant spots, unplantable steep slopes and hilly areas.  It also grows as epiphyte on oil palm stem. 

N. biserrata presence in the interrow of mature oil palm is useful as a ground cover plant since it grows slowly in the form of shrubs. Its existence does not cause much harm or disturbance to the oil palm.  Its serves as a cover plant that can improve water and soil capacity. The rhizomes of N. biserrata can enhance the space of soil pores particularly at the subsoil level which influences groundwater upsurge. In such conditions, the presence of N. biserrata can mitigate water shortages during the dry season. With good agriculture practices and management, N. biserrata has a great potential to be utilized as a ground cover vegetation in well maintained oil palm estates.  The other characteristics of N. biserrate of being able to grow well in poor soil conditions and in shaded conditions reinforce its role to preserve the soil moisture.

N. biserrata is an ideal ground cover vegetation due to its rapid growth and tolerant to shade.  It’s also fast decomposed. The biomass will increase soil carbon stock. Thus, a well-managed and use of right herbicides for weed management, N. biserrata can be an environmentally friendly ground cover vegetation in oil palm estates.  It’s also able to contribute soil carbon and nutrients to support the grow of oil palm. 

by Dr. Ooi Kok Eng

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