Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1310 Pyrrosia lingua

Common Names: tongue fern,Japanese felt fern Family: Polypodiaceae (polypody fern Family)
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tongue fern
While the tops of tongue fern fronds are glossy green, the bottoms are covered with a feltlike pubescence.


Tongue fern has leathery, lance shaped fronds 6-12 in (15-30 cm) long and 2-3 in (5-8 cm) wide. The fronds have long stipes (stalks), are not dissected (that is, not “fernlike”), and have wavy margins with smooth edges. The tops are glossy with sparse hairs, and the bottoms are covered with a dense feltlike pubescence that gives them a cinnamon color. On close examination (use a 10x or stronger lens), the individual hairs on the bottom of the fronds are branched. Tongue fern produces reddish patches of spores on the undersides of the fronds sporadically during the growing season. The fronds are often twisted a little, exposing at the same time the glossy green tops as well as the tan colored bottoms.

The fronds of the cultivars, ‘Cristata’ and ‘Corymbifera’ are forked at the tips. ‘Variegata’ has obliquely striped fronds. The fronds of ‘Eboshi’ are twisted. Those of ‘Monstrifera’ are deeply dissected. Several other cultivars with Japanese sounding names are listed.


Pyrrosia lingua is native to China, Taiwan, the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and south through India, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam. Tongue fern grows naturally in subtropical forests on rocks and on trees. 


Light: Tongue fern grows best in light shade. Indoors, provide bright light. Moisture: On the ground, tongue fern does best in a well drained soil with regular watering, but it is tolerant of occasional drought. It will shrivel up a bit, like a resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides), when it gets very dry, but like resurrection fern, tongue fern recovers quickly when the rains return. In hanging baskets, tongue fern benefits from regular misting. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10 . Tongue fern may be damaged by cold in zones 7and 8, but recovers in spring. Where not hardy, grow in a container and bring indoors in winter. Propagation: Divide tongue fern in spring to start new plants.

tongue fern
Steve maintains a bed of tongue fern in his garden.
tongue fern
Drought conditions will cause the tongue fern fronds to brown and shrivel but become fresh and green when the rain returns.


Tongue fern is usually grown as a basket fern in a hanging container. But where hardy, it can be grown on the ground or epiphytically on a tree or slab of bark. Tongue fern spreads quickly on long branching rhizomes and makes a fine evergreen ground cover where dry soil and partial shade preclude most other possibilities. Use it in the shade of larger trees and shrubs. Tongue fern will even grow on and over tree roots that are at or near the ground surface, and it will start up the trunk of a tree.


There are some 100 species of felt ferns (genus Pyrrosia), most of which are epiphytic, but some grow on rocks or on the ground, and many are not picky at all. They are closely related to resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides.

Steve Christman 5/24/18

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Pyrrosia species profiled on Floridata:

Pyrrosia lingua

( tongue fern,Japanese felt fern )

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