Biological Invasions

, Volume 10, Issue 8, pp 1215–1228 | Cite as

Giants invading the tropics: the oriental vessel fern, Angiopteris evecta (Marattiaceae)

  • Maarten J. M. ChristenhuszEmail author
  • Tuuli K. Toivonen
Original Paper


The Oriental vessel fern, Angiopteris evecta (G.Forst.) Hoffm. (Marattiaceae), has its native range in the South Pacific. This species has been introduced into other localities since the 18th century and is now listed as an invasive species in several regions (Jamaica, Hawaii and Costa Rica). The purpose of our study is (1) to trace the distributional history of the species, and (2) to model its potential future range based on climatic conditions. The native range and the history of introduction are based on the existing literature and on 158 specimens from 15 herbaria, together with field observations. As there are taxonomic problems surrounding A. evecta, we limited our analysis to samples from the Pacific, most closely resembling the type from Tahiti. We modelled the potential range using GARP species distribution modelling with basic climatic variables, elevation, and location in relation to the coast. Analysis of past records shows that the species is able to colonise new ecosystems with relative ease. The modelling reveals that the species could be cultivated over a much wider range than where it currently is grown. The escape of cultivated plants into nature is probably due to distance from natural areas and is limited by local ecological factors, such as soil conditions or competitors. The predicted distribution in Asia and Madagascar is similar to the native distribution of the entire genus Angiopteris. It can therefore be assumed that most Angiopteris species have similar climatic preferences, and the absence of A. evecta in this predicted region may be due to dispersal limitation. In the Americas there is no native Angiopteris, but our climatic model predicts a vast potential habitat in tropical America; an invasion of A. evecta should be anticipated here in localities where the species is cultivated. Vessel ferns are known to alter the natural environment, which may reduce local biodiversity. Since A. evecta is not yet widely cultivated, it is advisable to restrict the trade and spread of the species and to discourage its cultivation as an ornamental. The global climate data available for modelling is however not detailed enough to predict the spread of A. evecta on a local or regional scale.


Alien flora Angiopteris evecta Caribbean Conservation Ferns GARP Hawaii Invasive plant species Islands Jamaica Marattiaceae Pacific Species distribution modelling Neotropics Vessel ferns 



We thank Luis Diego Gómez (OTS, Costa Rica), Zak Zahawi (Las Cruces, Costa Rica), George R. Proctor (Institute of Jamaica, Kingston), and Mónica Palacios-Rios (Xalapa, Mexico) for providing information on the history of introduction, and Hanna Tuomisto (Turku University, Finland), France Rakotondrainibe (Paris, France), Alan R. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), A. Townsend Peterson (University of Kansas) for advice, and Ellen Valle for correcting the language. Funding was provided by the Academy of Finland (through a grant to Hanna Tuomisto) and Synthesys.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maarten J. M. Christenhusz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tuuli K. Toivonen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Section BiodiversityUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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