Secondary Metabolites of Ferns

  • Janos Vetter


This chapter presents new chemical data on the structure, characteristics, content, and probable biological functions of the secondary metabolites of ferns. The number of isolated new phenolics and terpenoids is high, but the occurrence of alkaloids is very limited; some qualitative data are uncertain. However, it is known that saccharides and alkaloids are components of ferns, which is radically different from the chemical composition of other plant groups. Secondary fern metabolites with antioxidative power are mainly phenolics (flavonoids) and certain saccharides, which may explain the early use of some fern species in folk medicine of various countries. Certain derivatives of fern sesquiterpenes have poisonous effects on animals and humans, with the ability to cause acute or chronic damage via direct or indirect effects. The toxicology of such metabolites in ferns is an issue in both human and veterinary medicine. One of the main biological (ecological) functions of secondary fern metabolites (e.g., cyanogenic glycosides, tannins, phytoecdysones, and some volatile terpenoids) is to defend against animal attacks. Some ferns (or their secondary metabolites) can be used as safe biological alternatives to pesticides. Further investigations in this field (including identification, quantification, and biological effects) are needed to determine their possible uses in therapy, biotechnology, and medicine.


Ferns Saccharides Phenolics Polyketides Terpenoids Alkaloids 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Veterinary SciencesBudapestHungary

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