Variation in arsenic accumulation hyperaccumulation in ferns and their allies.

Andrew Alexander Meharg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Citations (Scopus)


A range of fern species (45) and their allies, Equisetum (5) and Selaginella (2) species and Psilotum nudum were screened for their ability to hyperaccumulate arsenic, to develop a phylogenetic understanding of this phenomenon. A number of varieties (5) of a known arsenic hyperaccumulator Pteris cretica were additionally included in this study.

This study is the first to report members of the Pteris genus that do not hyperaccumulate arsenic, Pteris straminea and tremula.

A phylogenetic basis for arsenic accumulation in ferns was investigated. Some orders can accumulate more arsenic than others. Although members of the Equisetales and Blechnales did not hyperaccumulate arsenic, they still accumulated relatively high levels in their fronds, approaching 100 mg kg(-1) when grown on a soil dosed with 100 mg kg(-1) arsenic.

Arsenic hyperaccumulation was identified as a phenomenon at the extreme range of fern arsenic accumulation. Ferns that exhibit arsenic hyperaccumulation arrived relatively late in terms of fern evolution, as this character is not exhibited by primitive ferns or their allies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-31
Number of pages6
JournalNew Phytologist
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • arsenic
  • ferns
  • hyperaccumulation
  • phylogenetic
  • Pteris


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