The earliest references on Indian Pteridophytes are in Sanskrit classics related to Ayurveda. In Charak and Shushrut Samhitas Mayur Sikha (Actiniopteris) , Hansraj and Hanspadi (Adiantum spp.) were mentioned with medicinal properties. In Buddhist literature it is believed that the species of Moonworts (Botrychium spp.) has certain magical values and the plants of Botrychium are kept near the statue of Buddha to keep the devil powers away. About 9% world Pteridophytes occurs in India or only in 2.5% landmass of the world. Ferns and Fern-allies are second largest group of plants in Indian flora and represented by 33 families 130 genera and 1267species among them ca. 70 species are endemic to India. In India Pteridophytes are distributed in all the phytogeographical zones of India ranging from sea level to alpine Himalayas where they grow as Hydrophytes, Mesophytes, Lithophyte, Epiphyte, Hemiepiphyte, Climbers etc. They can found in all ground habitats such as Ravine, Forest floor, on slopes, Grassland, on Rocks and crevices, on open walls and stone boulders and at certain places they form gregarious Thickets. As epiphytes different species of Pteridophytes also distributed on different part of tree as on base of tree, bole, branches, forking etc.
After Ayurvedic literature systematic documentation of the Indian Pteridophytes started after European voyages and settlement of Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Spanish and French colonies and Missionary establishment in the Malabar Coast. In Hortus Indicus Malabaricus (1678-1693) Hendrik van Rheede documented and illustrated 20 Pteridophytes from Malabar Coast. The other Pre- Linnean botanists who collected or documented Indian Pteridophytes are James Petiver, Johannes Burman, Nicolaas Laurens Burman, John Ray etc. Soon after the establishment of British East Indian Company the Botanical research in India is accelerated. Officers of British East India company surveyed all the parts of India, made collections of millions of plants, housed in Calcutta garden, distributed duplicates to the various renowned herbaria of the west, prepared their illustrations, identified and published various Floras by expert botanists. Though based on the collections of East India Company, many species of Indian Pteridophytes were described in the various taxonomic works from Europe by Linnaeus, Swartz, Kunze, W. J. Hooker, J. G. Baker, Presl, Sprengel, Spring, Lamark, Milde, N. L. Burman, Hieronymous, Kümmerle, Willdenow, T.Moore, Zenker, Taschner, Lowe, Dryander, Roth etc. Sir W. J. Hooker in his Species Filicum vol. I-V (1846-1864) documented almost all then known Indian Pteridophytes and many of them were new to sciences.
Indian Pteridophytes were also documented and described in India by Wallich, Griffith, Roxburgh etc. in many reports and floras. In Calcutta Journal of Natural History (1844) Griffith and Roxburgh listed all the Indian Cryptogams collected by Roxburgh and his collectors. The first comprehensive account of Indian Pteridophytes were presented by Col. R. H. Beddome with full illustrations and description in the form of Ferns of Southern India (1863-1865), Ferns of British Indian vol. 1(1865-1866), Ferns of British Indian vol. 2(1866-1870), Supplement to the Ferns of British India (1876) and Handbook to the Ferns of British India, Ceylon and Malay Peninsula (1883) with Supplement (1891). In the mean time C. B. Clarke also documented The Ferns of Northern India (1980) and subsequently, Ferns of North Western Himalayas (1899-1904) were documented by C.W. Hope, Ferns of Shimla (1888,1889) by H. F. Blanford, and Ferns of Bombay (1924) by Blatter and Almeida. Similarly, the Pteridophytes of Bihar and Orissa were documented by Haines in his monumental book The Botany of Bihar and Orissa (1924) and Ferns of Mussoorie and Dehradun (1942), Kashmir (1945) and Pahalgam (1951) were documented by R. R. Stewart.
After Indian independence Botanical Survey of India with its regional centers became the center of excellence in Pteridophyte taxonomy in India along with some Indian Universities like Punjab Univeriisty Chandigarh, Punjabi Univeriisty, Patiala, Pune Univerisity and National Botanical Research Institute Lucknow. Several Pteridophyte taxonomists from B. S. I like G.Panigrahi, S. N.Patnaik, Kalpana Nag, N. C. Nair, N.P. Balakrishnan, S. Chowdhury, P. Bhargavan, D. B. Deb, R. D. Dixit, A. K. Baishya, R. R. Rao, Sarnam Singh, J. Ghatak, Anjali Biswas, Silpi Das, S. R. Ghosh, B. Ghosh, R. K. Ghosh, B.K. Sinha, P. Mondal, S.K. Basu, M.C. Biswas, H.C. Pande, A. Benniamin, B. S. Kholia, V. K. Rawat, Brijesh Kumar etc. contributed to Indian Pteridophytic flora and contributed not less than 2000 research papers and more than two dozen books on Indian Pterieophytes. Some noteworthy books from Botanists of B S I are. Lycopodiaceae of India (Dixit 1987) Selaginellaceae of India (Dixit 1992), Dictionary of Indian Pteridophytes (Dixit and Vohra 1984), Census of Indian Pteridophytes (Dixit 1984), Ferns and Fern-allies of Meghalaya (Baishya & Rao 1988), Pteridophytic Flora of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Dixit and Sinha 2001),Pteridophytic Flora of Kumaun Himalayas vol.-1&2 (2002,2003), The pteridophytic flora of eastern India (Ghosh et al.2004), Ferns and Fern-allies of Arunachal Pradesh (Singh and Panigrahi 2005), Ferns and Fern- allies of Sikkim Pictorial Handbook Part-1 & Part- 2 (Kholia 2010,2014), An annotated Checklist of Indian Pteridophytes vol.-1 &2 (Fraser-Jenkins et al. 2016,2018) etc.
All the old British Pteridophytic collection from India and S. E.Asia, are housed in CAL and DD Herbarium in India. Besides this treasurer under herbarium exchange programme, CAL contains Pteridophytic specimens from all over the world received from the renowned herbaria of the world. Further we have fine set of replacement of Wallich’s herbarium obtained from Geneva in the 1960s, full set of Japanese East Himalayan collections, a set of the collection of Stainton, Sykes and Williams collections from Nepal, all the duplicates of A. Henry’s Chinese collections etc. at CAL. It is noteworthy to mention here that millions of herbarium sheets, including many type-sheets of Indian Pteridophytes are housed in herbaria abroad like K, BM, P, LE, G, L, U, W,S, Z, BR, B, H, M, C, BP, E, NY, MO, US etc. After Indian independence scientists of various regional centers of Botanical survey of India collected large number of Pteridophytes which are housed in respective herbaria and duplicates are also transmitted to CAL. Among them Pteridophyte collection of D. B. Deb (ASSAM), G. N. Panigrahi (ASSAM), A.K. Baishya (ASSAM & ARUN), B.S.Kholia (BSHC &BSD), A. Benniamin (ARUN & BSI), V. K. Rawat (ARUN and BSA), Sarnbam Singh (ASSAM,BSHC &CAL) is valuable and noteworthy. Beside scientists posted on these BSI regional centers, BSI scientists from Central National Herbarium (CAL) and Central Regional Center, Allahabad (BSA) also collected the bulk of Pteridophytes form E. Himalaya and N. E. India. Among them collections of D. B. Deb (CAL), G. N. Panigrahi (CAL), R.D. Dixit (CAL, BSA), S. R. Ghosh (CAL), B. Ghosh (CAL), Anjali Biswas (CAL), S. K. Basu (CAL) etc. is noteworthy.
At present CAL and other regional center of BSI (ASSAM, AR, BSA, BSD, BSHC, BSI, BSID, BSJO, MH, and PBL) are housing about 80, 000 herbarium sheets of Pteridophytes including ca. 250 type sheets.