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Resam (Malay)
Dicranopteris linearis

thicket of resam
Resam is common in secondary forests, growing well on poor clay soils. It is among the few branching ferns and quickly develops into into thickets up to 2 m tall, shading out all other plants. Climbing on trees, they can reach 7 m. The wiry fronds mesh together and make it almost impossible to move through.
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Forms a thicket up to 2m tall.

Fronds develop paired branches

Status in Singapore: Common wasteland fern.
fronds developing between  branches
World distribution: Pantropical.

Classification: Family Gleicheniaceae.
The fronds are forked, with new branches emerging at the junction of the fork. Resam belongs to a family of ferns that is considered somewhat primitive.

Uses: In New Guinea, the climbers are used to lash posts together when making houses. The leaves are used as personal decorations both daily and for special ceremonies; or the plant may be woven into decorative arm and waistbands.

Traditional medicinal uses: Crushed leaves are applied as a poultice to control fever (Malaysia); the plant is used to get rid of intestinal worms (Indochina); to treat boils, ulcers and wounds (New Guinea).

Role in the habitat: Being among the few plants that can grow on poor soils and scramble over steep slopes, Resam quickly takes over bare soil after a land slide, or soil affected by erosion and other wastelands. The quick growing fern helps to bind the soil and return nutrients to the soil. The slender, spreading rhizomes and the mat of old leaves protect the soil from further erosion, while the young leaves trap debris. As these decay, nutrients are returned to the soil. However, the fern often does this too well and few plants can grow where a Resam thicket dominates. But, the thick mat of dead leaves are highly flammable and the thicket can be quickly destroyed by fire during the dry season. New plants can then grow in the area, and as Resam cannot survive under shade, there is a chance for other plants to continue the succession.

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  • Ivan Polunin, "Plants and Flowers of Singapore", Times Editions, 1987 (p. 42: description, habitat, distribution, photo).
  • Wee Yeow Chin, "A Guide to Medicinal Plants", Singapore Science Centre, 1992 (p. 24: description, chemical compounds, uses).
  • Dr Wee Yeow Chin, "A Guide to the Ferns of Singapore", Singapore Science Centre, 1983 (p. 43-44: habit of forming impenetrable thickets).
  • Dr E Soepadmo (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Plants", Ferns and Fern Allies by Wee Yeow Chin, Editions Didier Millet, 1998 (p. 44: habit)
By Ria Tan, 2001