Cyatheaceae (tree ferns) appeared during the Jurassic period and some of the species still remain. Those species may have some morphological and/or physiological characteristics for survival. A tree fern was observed to suppress the growth of other ligneous plants in a tropical forest. It was assumed that the fern may release toxic substances into the forest floor, but those toxic substances have not yet been identified. Therefore, we investigated the phytotoxicity and phytotoxic substances of Cyathea lepifera (J. Sm. ex Hook.) Copel. An aqueous methanol extract of C. lepifera fronds inhibited the growth of roots and shoots of dicotyledonous garden cress (Lepidum sativum L.), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), and monocotyledonous ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.), timothy (Phleum pratense L.), and barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.). The results suggest that C. lepifera fronds may have phytotoxicity and contain some phytotoxic substances. The extract was purified through several chromatographic steps during which inhibitory activity was monitored, and p-coumaric acid and (-)-3-hydroxy-β-ionone were isolated. Those compounds showed phytotoxic activity and may contribute to the phytotoxic effects caused by the C. lepifera fronds. The fronds fall and accumulate on the forest floor through defoliation, and the compounds may be released into the forest soils through the decomposition process of the fronds. The phytotoxic activities of the compounds may be partly responsible for the fern’s survival.
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