Plants terrestrial, 10-300 cm tall. Rhizome erect or ascending to creeping, short or long, stout or slender, scaly at apex; rhizome and basal stipe scales brown, linear or lanceolate, margins entire, finely toothed, or ciliate, membranous. Stipe yellow, brown, or black, scaly at base or sometimes throughout. Fronds tufted or approximate, monomorphic to strongly dimorphic, simple or pinnate to 4 times pinnate-pinnatifid, often triangular or pentagonal, usually decompound toward apices; rachises and costae usually (in most genera) covered with articulate multicellular (ctenitoid) hairs; veins free or variously anastomosing, included veinlets if present simple or forked. Sori terminal on included free veins, dorsal on veins or compital on (at intersection of) connected veins, usually orbicular, sometimes elongate, anastomosing in lines, in some species throughout abaxial surface of lamina when mature, indusiate or exindusiate; indusia if present orbicular-reniform, persistent or caducous. Spores ovoid or elliptic, monolete, perispore with winglike folds, cristate, echinate, verrucose, rugose, or spinose. n = 10, 40, 41.
Eight to 15 genera and ca. 300 species: pantropical; four genera and 41 species (seven endemic) in China.
The number of genera and species in this family has been in considerable flux. Molecular studies (Hasebe et al., Amer. Fern J. 85: 134-181. 1995) have increased our understanding of many fern families, and the placement of many uncertainly placed genera has recently become more evident. The genera Ctenitis (incl. Ataxipteris), Dryopsis (= Dryopteris sect. Dryopsis), and Lastreopsis, which were previously placed in Tectariaceae, are now known to belong to the Dryopteridaceae (Hasebe et al., loc. cit.; Smith et al., Taxon 55: 717. 2006; Liu et al., Sci. China, C, 50: 789-798. 2007) and are treated in that family in this Flora. The two families have always been difficult to separate on a morphological basis, but molecular evidence shows that Tectariaceae in its strict sense is sister to a clade uniting Polypodiaceae, Oleandraceae, and Davalliaceae. The group directly sister to Tectariaceae is Lomariopsidaceae (incl. Nephrolepidaceae), which in turn forms a sister clade to Dryopteridaceae, together forming the Eupolypods I clade (Smith et al., loc. cit.: 707).
Few molecular studies have so far addressed the Tectariaceae as a whole, and the generic delimitations are, therefore, far from established. Recent studies suggest that a number of segregate genera is deeply embedded within Tectaria, making it a somewhat polymorphic genus. Here, we have followed this broad concept of Tectaria, and included the genera Ctenitopsis, Hemigramma, and Quercifilix. This is admittedly a conservative approach, but it will have to suffice for the purposes of the present treatment until further studies provide a better understanding and better established delimitation of the genera within Tectariaceae.
Pleocnemia and Pteridrys are maintained as separate from Tectaria s.l. because they show sufficient molecular and morphological distinctness. Pleocnemia was tentatively placed in Dryopteridaceae by Liu et al. (loc. cit.), but evidence for this is scarce, and we, therefore, maintain it here in Tectariaceae following Smith et al. (loc. cit.: 718), until further data are available.
The following taxon, described from China, is excluded from the present treatment, pending further research: Sagenia cicutaria (Linnaeus) T. Moore var. tenerifrons Christ (Bull. Acad. Int. Géogr. Bot. 11: 257. 1902).
Ching Ren-chang, Fu Shu-hsia, Wang Chu-hao & Shing Gung-hsia. 1959. Arthropteris. In: Ching Ren-chang, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 2: 318-319; Wang Chuhao. 1999. Aspidiaceae (excluding Ctenitis and Lastreopsis). In: Wu Shiewhung, ed., Fl. Reipub