Synonym(s): Trichomanes strigosum Thunb.; Davallia hirta Kaulf.; D. setosa Sm.; D. strigosa (Thunb.) Sw.; Dicksonia kaulfussiana Gaudich.; D. strigosa (Thunb.) Thunb.; Microlepia hirta (Kaulf.) C. Pres); M. serosa (Sm.) Alston; Stenoloma tenuifolium Fee
Common names: palapalai, palai (P. & E.)
Latin striga, short bristlelike hairs, referring to the hairs on the fronds.
Plants medium-sized. Fronds usually less than l 00 x 30 cm. Stipes straw-colored, sparsely to very hairy, hairs of I type, uniform in size, short, l-2 mm long, jointed, acute-tipped. Blades 2-pinnate-pinnatifid to 3-pinnate-pinnatifid, ovate-lanceolate, pale green, subcoriaceous, tips pinnatifid; rachises straight or moderately zigzag, and costae pale green, rachises and midribs sparsely to very hairy with hairs same as those on stipes. Pinnae linear-deltate; rachises, costae, and veins gla-brous to very hairy. Ultimate segments ovate to oblong, subfalcate to falcate,-acuminate, tips rounded, hairs (if present) mostly on ab-axial surface. Veins prominently raised on abaxial surfaces, paler than blades, free, usually somewhat hairy. Sori submarginal to marginal. Indusia attached at base and sides, opening outward, hairy, hairs often in tufts at bases of indusia.
Found in mostly dry to moderately wet habitats, near sea level to 1,770 m, all major islands.
Microlepia strigosa is a highly variable plant and the hairiness of the species varies from minimal to very dense with an apparent continuum of intermediates; the two extremes are recognized here as varieties. It is possible that the Hawaiian plants of this taxon may belong to a different species, and they have been referred to as Microlepia substrigosa Tagawa by some authors.
Microlepia strigosa is also native to the Himalayas, Sri Lanka, from southeastern Asia to Japan, and Polynesia. Palapalai was one of the plants sacred to Laka, goddess of the hula, and was used to decorate the hula altar. It is mentioned commonly in song and chant and is a favorite fern for lei making and adornment of hula dancers.
Microlepia strigosa may be distinguished from M. speluncae by its smaller fronds, indusia that are usually closer to the margin and attached at the sides as well as at the base, and particularly by prominent, raised, paler veins on the lower blade surfaces.