African Fern Evolution

The continent of Africa contains fewer fern species in general than regions in the neighboring Neotropics and Old World tropics, and very little is known about the relationships of African species to their congeners in other regions. We are working on reconstructing phylogenies for genera that include African species in order to understand how they are related to species in other areas, and to reconstruct their historical biogeography to determine when and from where their ancestors migrated to Africa. We are also examining diversification of African ferns to determine what climatic and other factors might be correlated with their evolution. This work is part of an ongoing collaboration with Aino Juslén, and Henry Väre at the Finnish Museum of Natural History.


  • Sessa EB, A Juslén, H Väre, and SM Chambers. (2017) Into Africa: Molecular phylogenetics and historical biogeography of sub-Saharan African woodferns (Dryopteris). American Journal of Botany. 104(3): 447–486. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1600392  PDF