Nephrolepsis cordifolia (Kupukupu)

  • TropPlant Accession Number (TPAN): 0127
  • Botanical Name: Nephrolepsis cordifolia
  • Common Name: Kupukupu, Narrow Sword Fern, Fishbone Fern
  • Cultivar: N/A
  • Family: Nephrolepidaceae
Nephrolepsis cordifolia
Photo by Matthew Gaston
  • Native To: Considered Pantropical; Indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands, Asia, and Northern Australia.

Landscaping Information

    • Plant Type: Fern, Tuberous
    • Texture: Dense, Coarse
    • Form: Upright-Narrow
    • Height (on average, in landscape use):  1'-2'
    • Spread: Stolons grow from the tuber giving rise to new plants. 
    • Growth Rate:  Medium 
    • Landscape Values: Background, Border, Edging, Filler, Foundation, Framing, Groundcover, Indoor, Lanai, Mass, Patio, Erosion Control
    • Outstanding Quality: Form/Silhouette, Foliage Characters
    Nephrolepsis cordifolia
    Photo by Matthew Gaston

      Botanical Descriptions

      • Foliage Color:  Young/immature: Light Green Mature: Bright Medium Green to Dark Green
      • Leaflet (Pinnae) Tip:  Rounded
      • Foliage Base: Truncate
      • Petiole: Light brown to muted brown; narrow; 2"-8" long
      • Margins: Undulate
      • Frond Arrangement: Rosette
      • Leaflet (Pinnae) Shape: Deltoid
      • Leaf Type: Once Pinnate, Frond
      • Leaf Texture: Glabrous (smooth) adaxial and abaxial surfaces on trophophylls and sporotrophophylls, but sporotrophophylls containing flabellate (fan-shaped) indusia.
      • Leaf Special Notes: Fronds are typically erect.
      Nephrolepsis cordifolia with an exposed abaxial surface of a sporotrophophyll (left) and an adaxial surface of a trophophyll (right).
      Photo by Matthew Gaston

        Nephrolepsis cordifolia abaxial leaf tips. Left: Sporotrophophyll featuring sori. Right: Trophophyll lacking sori
        Photo by Matthew Gaston

          Nephrolepsis cordifolia grown in mass
          Photo by Matthew Gaston

            Nephrolepsis cordifolia plantlets
            Photo by Matthew Gaston

              Nephrolepsis cordifolia stem with roots
              Photo by Matthew Gaston
                • Bark and Trunk: Upright rhizomes; No bark or trunk, but notable golden, velvety, scaly tuberous stems which grow with maturity. Stolons emerge from the tuber giving rise to new tubers.

                Horticultural Information

                  • Light Preference: Semi-Sun to Full Sun
                  • Light Tolerances: Shade
                  • Soil Preferences:  Not Particular, but best in Slightly Acidic to Neutral pH, Moist, and Well-Drained soils.
                  • Tolerances:  Compacted Soil, Moderate Winds, Humidity, (moderate) Drought
                  • Water Requirements: Prefers well-draining soil; water frequently as it enjoys moist soils, but do not let the fern sit in water or heavily saturated soil.
                  • Notes on Maintenance: Tolerates a wide range of temperatures and soil types, but will not survive in freezing conditions, salty soils, or standing water. Plants send out stolons which give rise to new plantlets.
                  • Propagation: Spores, Division
                  • Minimum USDA Hardiness Zone: 8a
                  • Weed Risk Assessment Score (WRA): Indigenous plant; not considered a weed. 
                  • Common Name Meaning: The Hawaiian word kupu means to "spring forth", "sprout", and "grow".

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