The Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs parallel to India’s western coast, covering 160,000 square kilometers in 1,600 kilometers. Older than the Himalayan mountains, the mountain chain of the Western Ghats represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes. Pteridophytes are vascular cryptogams that dominated the earth 250 million years ago. Currently, there are 13,600 species of pteridophytes around the world, and is the second most dominant plant group. In India, there are 1200 pteridophyte species with 70 families and 192 genera. The pteridophyte hotspots in India are the Himalayas, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, Central India, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands. The Western Ghats occupies only 6% of the Indian landmass and still holds a pteridophyte diversity of 384 species. Fern and fern allies are highly sensitive to changes in their natural habitat, thus habitat destruction, anthropogenic influences, climate change, etc., are causing a fast decline in their population. Epiphytic species are easily destroyed due to the felling of trees and because of this at present 41- 43% of epiphytic pteridophytes in India are reported to be threatened. Frequent analysis of the pteridophyte flora of a region is necessary to ensure the existence of its species diversity. Understanding the flora of a region always helps in understanding the change in the ecosystem. The current study presents a review of the pteridophyte flora of the Western Ghats with the intention of assessing the extent of changes in the diversity of fern flora in this mountain range.

Author(s) Details:

Athira Krishnan
Department of Botany, Sree Narayana College, Nattika, Thrissur, Kerala-680566, India.

Rekha K.
Department of Botany, Vimala College (Autonomous), Thrissur, Kerala-680009, India.

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Recent Global Research Developments on Pteridophytes in the Western Himalayas

A study conducted from January 2019 to November 2021 aimed to gather ecological and traditional knowledge about pteridophytes from local inhabitants in the Kashmir valley [1]. Here are some key findings:

  • Species Diversity: The researchers recorded 58 pteridophyte species belonging to 13 families. Among these, four families constituted more than half of the total species: Dryopteridaceae (26%), Woodsiaceae (17%), Aspleniaceae (14%), and Pteridaceae (14%).
  • Traditional Uses: Pteridophytes have been used by humans for millennia, but documentation of their traditional uses has been neglected compared to flowering plants. This study sheds light on their ecological and traditional use information in the Western Himalayas.
  • Ethnobotanical Context: While Asia boasts great pteridophyte diversity, their uses have not been well recorded except for a few studies in China and India [1]. Further research can help uncover more about their cultural significance and potential applications.

Applications of pteridophytes in Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalaya: An ethnobotanical perspective [2]

  • Ferns exhibit wide distribution in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), with Himachal Pradesh providing optimal climatic conditions for diverse fern species. This study documents the ethnobotanical applications of 45 pteridophyte species, spanning 16 families and 21 genera in Himachal Pradesh.


  1. Khoja AA, Haq SM, Majeed M, Hassan M, Waheed M, Yaqoob U, Bussmann RW, Alataway A, Dewidar AZ, Al-Yafrsi M, et al. Diversity, Ecological and Traditional Knowledge of Pteridophytes in the Western Himalayas. Diversity. 2022; 14(8):628.
  2. Thakur, A. and Kanwal, K.S., 2023. Applications of pteridophytes in Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalaya: An ethnobotanical perspective. Journal of Non-Timber Forest Products, 30(2), pp.75-82.

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