Cibotium (from Greek κιβώτιον, kibṓtion, "little chest" or "box"), also known as manfern,[1] is a genus of 11 species of tropical tree ferns. It is the only genus in family Cibotiaceae in the Pteridophyte Phylogeny Group classification of 2016 (PPG I).[2] Alternatively, the family may be treated as the subfamily Cibotioideae of a very broadly defined family Cyatheaceae,[3] the family placement used for the genus in Plants of the World Online as of November 2019.[4]

Starr 040713-0079 Cibotium menziesii.jpg
Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi (Cibotium menziesii)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Division: Polypodiophyta
Class: Polypodiopsida
Order: Cyatheales
Family: Cibotiaceae
Genus: Cibotium

See text.


As of November 2019, Plants of the World Online accepted the following species and hybrids:[4]

Some extinct species have also been placed in this genus:[5]


Species of the genus are distributed fairly narrowly in Hawaiʻi (four species, plus a hybrid, collectively known as hāpuʻu), Southeast Asia (five species), and the cloud forests of Central America and Mexico (two species). The natural habitat of Cibotium is among the dripping trees and stream gullies of the rainforests on Hawaiʻi's windward volcanic slopes.

The fossil record indicates that the genus was once a part of the boreotropical flora found in Europe, eastern North America, and western Asia. Fossilized Cibotium oregonense was found near Medford, Oregon, and fossilized Cibotium iwatense was found in Iwate, Japan.[6]

No publicly accessible Cibotium collections are growing outdoors in the United Kingdom, but two glasshouse collections are kept at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the RBG Edinburgh in Scotland. Specimens of Cibotium regale in the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are visible to the public when the glasshouses open in May.


Cibotium glaucum, from Hawai'iʻ, is the most frequently encountered Cibotium species in the horticultural trade, along with its sibling species Cibotium chamissoi and the large-growing Cibotium menziesii. They are sometimes seen in California garden designs.

Cibotium barometz is best known for its role in ancient medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used as an anti-inflammatory and an anodyne; its rhizome hairs are used in Malaysia and China as a styptic for wounds.[7] It is still exported from Malaysia for this purpose.[8] Hair-covered pieces of the rhizome, with bud stalks imitating legs, were used to lend credence to the medieval legend of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, a half-sheep, half-plant hybrid.[9]

Historically, women in Hawai'i have used the furry part of the Cibotium as a tampon.[10]


Pressure on Hawaiian Cibotium habitats comes from development encroaching on the forested areas, especially the more accessible, lower-lying areas which are commercially attractive for land clearance. A less obvious threat comes from an invasive introduced tree fern species: Cyathea cooperi (the most popular garden tree fern in the United States), which has escaped from the islands' suburban gardens and now outcompetes the endemic flora. Wind-blown spores from this rapidly growing Australian import can migrate many miles into pristine Cibotium forests. This is a fairly recent phenomenon, but one which may eventually have grave consequences for the tree fern ecosystem in Hawaiʻi.[citation needed]


  1. ^
  2. ^ PPG I (2016). "A community-derived classification for extant lycophytes and ferns". Journal of Systematics and Evolution. 54 (6): 563–603. doi:10.1111/jse.12229. S2CID 39980610.
  3. ^ Christenhusz, Maarten J.M. & Chase, Mark W. (2014). "Trends and concepts in fern classification". Annals of Botany. 113 (9): 571–594. doi:10.1093/aob/mct299. PMC 3936591. PMID 24532607.
  4. ^ a b "Cibotium Kaulf". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  5. ^ Barrington, D. (1983). Cibotium oregonense: An Eocene Tree-Fern Stem and Petioles with Internal Structure. American Journal of Botany, 70(8), 1118-1124. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Barrington, D. (1993). Ecological and Historical Factors in Fern Biogeography. Journal of Biogeography, 20(3), 275-279. doi:10.2307/2845635
  7. ^ Lim, T. K. (2016). "Cibotiaceae". Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants. 10, Modified Stems, Roots, Bulbs. Springer. p. 88. ISBN 9789401772754.
  8. ^ Kathirithamby-Wells, Jeyamalar (2005). Nature and Nation: Forests and Development in Peninsular Malaysia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 340. ISBN 0824828631.
  9. ^ Large, Mark F.; Braggins, John E. (2004). Tree Ferns. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 360. ISBN 9780881926309.
  10. ^ Who invented tampons? June 6, 2006 The Straight Dope

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