Terrestrial ferns. Rhizome short, erect or creeping, often thick and covered with papery scales. Sterile and fertile fronds sometimes different. Frond blade undivided or severally divided, mostly membranous; ribs mostly grooved on upper surface; veins usually free. Sori usually elongated along the veins, sometimes paired. Indusium narrow and elongated, generally 'U'-shaped or 'J'-shaped, sometimes round or absent.
The family Athyriaceae is sometimes included within the Aspidiaceae although botanists have also placed it within a broad concept of the family Dryopteridaceae. Limits of Woodsiaceae have recently changed to include Athyridaceae. However, further study is required to resolve the taxonomy of this group, and it is possible that it consists of numerous smaller families as previously circumscribed (Smith et al. 2006). Following Australian botanists a more traditional approach is adopted here.
About 15 genera and c. 650 species mostly from tropical regions (3 genera with 11 species in Australia).
Recognition: The family is generally distinguished by a difficult technical character - the shape of the vascular strands in the frond stalks: there are two at the base that unite upwards into a 'U' shape in section. This contrasts with the 'X'-shaped strands in the Aspleniaceae.
Smith et al. 2006
Source: (1995). Athyriaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 1, Ferns, conifers & their allies. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.
Updated by: Val Stajsic, May 2018