Diliman / Hagnaya (Stenochlaena palustris)

Description and Characteristics

 Diliman fern, also known as Hagnaya in some provinces of the Philippines, is a grainy, climbing fern of indefinite length. Its rhizomes, the stem part that contains nodes from which roots and shoots originate, is creeping or climbing in a way that it attaches to trees or lattices. Its rhizomes are brown and measure at approximately one centimeter (1cm) in diameter. Also, it sparingly branched out giving a straight sturdy material as it grows longer indefinitely. Developing from the stem/rhizome is the part of the fern called the “frond” which are usually distant from each other and are born from any side of the rhizome. The upper part of the frond is where the leaflets called “pinna” (plural: pinnae) are located. One of the identifying features of Hagnaya among other ferns is that its sterile fronds have broad pinnae while the upper fertile fronds are with narrow pinnae. Also, the sterile fronds are up to 80 cm in length with pinnae 10-12 cm long and about 8.5cm wide; while the fertile fronds are somewhat shorter than the sterile ones and about 3mm wide. The pinnae/leaflets are arranged on each side of the frond, well-spaced, reddish brown or green in color, and some have brown/dark spots attached at the back of each leaflet. These brown spots are called “sori” (singular: sorus) wherein the spores of the fern are contained. 

Selected anatomical traits of ferns.  Photo and copyright: Jerald Pinson |”About Ferns”, American Fern Society | https://www.amerfernsoc.org/about-ferns

Location and Sources

Hagnaya is very common in the Philippines especially in coconut plantations in association with other vegetation. They also normally grow in wet ground such as freshwater swamp, forests, sago swamps, behind mangroves or beach vegetation, along rivers, marshes, and on floating vegetation. It is a very adaptable plant that’s why it is widely distributed in the country and different provinces have different names for this fern species. 

Application and Product Output

Through time, people have discovered different uses of Hagnaya. Its young shoots are eaten raw as a salad or can be cooked or sautéed with other vegetables. The young leaves on the other hand, can be made into soup. Some provinces used young Hagnaya ferns as ornamentals because of their vibrant, green / reddish brown, and well-arranged leaflets that are relaxing and pleasing to the eyes. Hagnaya also has various medicinal applications such treatment for diarrhea while a decoction or the juice is taken internally for fever. 

Above all, it’s the stem that made Hagnaya fern well-known. The stems are known for their durability when submerged in salt water. In sea water, the rhizomes of Hagnaya are more durable than rattan, that’s why they are better to be used as fishing ropes and fishing gears compared to rattan. Aside from making it into ropes, Hagnaya stems are also used as belts and as binding material in making baskets. But it was not until the 20th century that people were able to maximize and innovate more on the use of hagnaya stems. Nowadays, Hagnaya stems are made into different home products and furniture such as tables, chairs, shelves, baskets, and planters.

Photo and copyright: Jennifer M. Conda | Philippine Forest Woody Vines

Production and Sustainable Consumption

Hagnaya can be propagated by spores, but more easily by rhizome cuttings. Currently, there are no breeding programs/projects that are known to exist for the sustainability of Hagnaya due to the fact that it’s abundant in the environment. Its adaptability to varying environment conditions together with its low demand for commercial purposes, have made Hagnaya still thriving abundantly up to these days. In other places, Hagnaya ferns are even uprooted intentionally because they get into the way of other plants and vegetation. There’s no big scale production for Hagnaya, and are only harvested when the need arises such as when it is used for cooking in local communities. Fresh young shoots and leaves are tied into bundles and sold as a vegetable on local markets. Hagnaya ferns grow easily provided there is enough light and moisture making them widely distributed in the country. Thus, providing enough supply. Locals harvest the ferns from the wild, they then remove its leaves, tie them into bundles, dry the stems under the sun, sort the dried stems, and they are now ready for production.

Photos and copyright: Pamela Anthony| PRODUCTION AND MARKETING OF NON-TIMBER FOREST PRODUCTS TO PROMOTE RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES. | https://slideplayer.com/slide/4322337/

Hagnaya is an interesting fern that has made its way to the commercial industry through time. Once used for simple materials only, this species has now shown great potential and has become a subject of studies and researches with the aim to explore, evaluate, and establish its various uses and properties.

Supported by the Connections Through Culture programme of the British Council, our Materials Library Expansion Project is the first collaboration between UNESCO Creative Cities of Design #Cebu and #Dundee. #MATIC #CreativeDundee #BritishCouncilPh #BritishCouncilCTC

Works Cited

“Diliman”. Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme – NTFP Product Database, https://ntfp.org/2016/02/diliman/. Accessed 19 January 2021.

“Stenochlaena palustris (PROSEA)”. Pl@ntUse: Plant Resources of South-East Asia, https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Stenochlaena_palustris_(PROSEA) . Accessed 19 January 2021.

Conda, Jennifer. “Philippine Forest Woody Vines”. http://www.map-abcdf.com.ph/documents/presentations/Countryside%20Development/Forestry/Philippine%20Forest%20Woody%20Vines%20Presentation%20%20.pdf. Accessed 19 January 2021.

Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau. “12 Common Philippine Ferns”. Research Information Series on Ecosystems, vol. 23, no. 2, May-August 2011, http://erdb.denr.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/r_v23n2.pdf. Accessed 19 January 2021.

Fern, Ken. “Stenochlaena palustris”. Useful Tropical Plants, http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Stenochlaena+palustris. Accessed 19 January 2021.

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