Medicinal pteridophytes are an important group used in traditional Chinese medicine; however, there is no simple and universal way to differentiate various species of this group by morphological traits. A novel technology termed "DNA barcoding" could discriminate species by a standard DNA sequence with universal primers and sufficient variation. To determine whether DNA barcoding would be effective for differentiating pteridophyte species, we first analyzed five DNA sequence markers (psbA-trnH intergenic region, rbcL, rpoB, rpoC1, and matK) using six chloroplast genomic sequences from GeneBank and found psbA-trnH intergenic region the best candidate for availability of universal primers. Next, we amplified the psbA-trnH region from 79 samples of medicinal pteridophyte plants. These samples represented 51 species from 24 families, including all the authentic pteridophyte species listed in the Chinese pharmacopoeia (2005 version) and some commonly used adulterants. We found that the sequence of the psbA-trnH intergenic region can be determined with both high polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification efficiency (94.1%) and high direct sequencing success rate (81.3%). Combined with GeneBank data (54 species cross 12 pteridophyte families), species discriminative power analysis showed that 90.2% of species could be separated/identified successfully by the TaxonGap method in conjunction with the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool 1 (BLAST1) method. The TaxonGap method results further showed that, for 37 out of 39 separable species with at least two samples each, between-species variation was higher than the relevant within-species variation. Thus, the psbA-trnH intergenic region is a suitable DNA marker for species identification in medicinal pteridophytes. © 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Japan.