Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common among plants, both as attractants for pollinators and as defence against herbivores. While much studied among flowering plants, the prevalence and function of VOCs among ferns is little known. Using headspace sorption and gas chromatography, we analysed the VOCs of dried specimens of six species of grammitid fern (Polypodiaceae), including two species of the genus Melpomene, which is characterised by a distinctive sweet smell. We identified 38 VOCs, including 22 not previously recorded among ferns. The two species of Melpomene had distinct VOC cocktails, including 12 substances not found in the other four studied genera, mainly involving fatty acid derivatives (FADs) and aromatics. We propose that these VOCs have, at least in part, a function in herbivore defence, but note that the VOC bouquet of Melpomene is distinct from that typically found in angiosperms.