The three most common species of Lygodium, namely, L. japonicum (Thunb.) Sw., L. flexuosum Sw., and L. circinnatum (Burm.) Sw., are very important materials in Philippine handicrafts. The three most common species of Lygodium differ from each other in gross morphology of the fronds and in some other characters. In L. circinnatum, the pinnae are forked more or less equally and the lobes are in turn once or twice cleft so they look like the palms of your hands. The two other species, on the other hand have bipinnate fronds so that the pinnae are again pinnate. In L. japonicum, however, the segments are finer and the dwarf branches where the pinnae are attached are shorter than those of L. flexuousum. Depending on the species and age of the plants when collected, the sturdy, viny stems exhibit a variety of colors ranging from straw-colored to jet-black, making nitÚ attractive tying materials in rattan or bamboo furnitures. Baskets, hats, coin purses, belts, and other small ornaments purely made of nitÚ (or in combination with other materials such as rattan and straw) are very popular keepsakes for tourists. Different ethnic groups and local people in Palawan also use nitÚ as tying materials for wild boars, around bolo scabbards (bangkurong), and in making belts (ambalad), and wrist bands (bingkis) in Palawan. NitÚ is also used as medicine in the Philippines. In Ifugao, for instance, a small ball of leaves and vines is held between teeth to treat toothaches whereas in Zamboanga, the roots are boiled and taken in swallowed to neutralize the venoms of snake bites. In China, the plants are used as expectorant and in the Dutch Indies, the roots and leaves are externally applied to treat skin problems including ringworms, and as a protective medicine after childbirth.
The stems are viny and scrambling in thickets and the leaves range from palmate to quadripinnate, the ultimate segments being variously dissected. The fertile segments are often narrower than the sterile with the spikes 1.0 to 10 mm long. The viny fronds reach several meters long with pinnae coming off with short branches.
The genus Lygodium is one of the primitive fern genera whose ancestors date back to the Mesozoic Era (ca. 225 million years ago).
Of the 25 species of Lygodium in the world, seven are in the Philippines and are commonly found in open, exposed areas as well as in forest interiors in low and medium altitudes. None of the species is endemic but most are widespread in the country.