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Volume 47, 1914
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Art. X.—The Ferns and Fern Allies of Mangonui County, with some Notes on Abnormal Forms.

[Read before the Auckland Institute, 16th December, 1914.]

In the New Zealand botanical area, which embraces, in addition to the mainland, the outlying groups of the Kermadec Islands, the Chatham Islands, and the islands lying to the south,* there are 138 species of ferns, contained in thirty-one genera. In addition, there are twenty-seven varieties named. But there are also a good many forms not included in these species and varieties, in some cases, no doubt, intermediate forms, in others forms not specially distinguished, some of which, in my opinion, are, from their constancy, worthy of distinction.

Of the 138 species, there are in the Mangonui County ninety, and of the varieties acknowledged in Cheeseman's “Manual of the New Zealand Flora” there are fourteen.

The names used in this paper are those of the Manual, except in a few cases where changes have been made in accordance with the rules established by the Botanical Congress of Vienna.


1. Hymenophyllum Linn.

Twenty species in Manual, represented by eleven species in Mangonui County.

2. Trichomanes Smith.

Seven species in Manual, represented by five species.

In shaded gullies Hymenophyllum scabrum A. Rich. grows luxuriously, especially on trees leaning over the creek. Here, too, are found H. dilatatum, H. demissum, H. polyanthos, and others, though by no means confined to this situation.

My most recent discovery among these delicate ferns in this district was H. Cheesemanii. For years I have searched for this tiny fern without success, always looking for it “among moss on the upper branches of foresttrees.” When I did find it, however, it was on the stems of small trees, hidden in a dense growth of moss, which Mr. Cheeseman informs me is a very unusual position. I have even found it on the shady side of a kauritree, and, last of all, I did find it on the upper branches of a fallen tree.

H. ferrugineum Colla. occurs plentifully in damp gullies on the stems of Dicksonia squarrosa, not infrequently mixed with Trichomanes venosum R. Br. T. reniforme Forst., the “kidney fern,” occurs plentifully on fallen logs as a rule.

The most interesting among these ferns in this district is T. strictum Menz. It is decidedly rare. Usually it occurs in damp forests, but near Kaitaia, the only place where this fern has been noted in the county, it is growing on deeply shaded clay banks of a creek, and also on the margins

[Footnote] * “Manual of the New Zealand Flora,” Cheeseman, preface, p. iv.

[Footnote] † ‘Notes on Botanical Nomenclature,” Cheeseman, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 40, p. 464, 1908.

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of “potholes” from which gum has been dug on the moorlands. “A very remarkable locality, as the species is almost invariably a denizen of the deep forest.”*


3. Loxsoma R. Br.

One species, not uncommon in district.

4. Cyathea Smith.

Four species, of which two occur.

5. Hemitelia R. Br.

One species, which occurs plentifully.

7. Dicksonia L'Herit.

Three species, two of which are common.

Loxsoma Cunninghamii R. Br., a unique species, occurs freely in this county in some parts, though it is absent from large areas.

According to Professor Goebel, of Munich, to whom specimens were sent, “Loxsoma is closely related to Cyatheaceae, and has nothing to do with the filmy ferns Gleichenia and Polypodiaceae.” For a full description of the prothallus, showing its resemblance to that of cyatheaceous ferns, reference should be made to “Archegoniatenstudien; xiv, Loxsoma und das System der Farne,” by Dr. Goebel, in “Abdruck aus Flora oder Allgemeine Botanische Zeitung,” heft i, published by Gustav Fischer, Jena.

Cyathea dealbata Swartz and C. medullaris Swartz are both plentiful, and it is quite possible that C. Cunninghamii Hook. f. also occurs, though I have not yet come on it.

Hemitelia Smithii Hook. is plentiful in damp forests.

Dicksonia squarrosa Swartz is a characteristic of low-lying forest, in many places covering considerable areas, almost to the exclusion of other vegetation. D. lanata Col. always affects a drier habitat, occurring freely on slopes in the forest. In the north it usually develops a caudex, prostrate and rooting for some distance, then rising to a height of 3–6 ft.


This suborder includes seventeen out of the thirty-one genera.

8. Davallia Smith.

Three species, of which one only occurs here, D. novae-zealandiae, and is apparently very rare.

10. Lindsaya Dryander.

Three species, two of which (L. cuneata C. Chr. and L. linearis Swartz) are not uncommon.

L. linearis is distinctly a moorland plant, occurring freely on clay slopes.

The sterile fronds are always much shorter and broader than the fertile ones, and frequently grow in a rosulate manner.

L. cuneata belongs to the forests, usually growing on the upper slopes. This is a very variable fern. One form has the frond distinctly tripinnate with the ultimate segments deeply pinnatfid, another is bipinnate, and a third is simply pinnate. This last is var. Lessonii Hook. f. Not infrequently the two latter forms are found on the one plant.

[Footnote] * Cheeseman, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 43, p. 185, 1911.

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11. Adiantum Linn.

Of the six species of maidenhairs, Adiantum formosum alone is absent.

A. aethiopicum Linn., the most delicately cut and graceful of the species we have in New Zealand, is not uncommon in lowland situations, occurring freely in places on ditch-banks and on margins of wet patches.

A. diaphanum Blume is also usually to be found in damp places, both in lowland forests and among damp rocks in the higher forests. Sometimes it is simply pinnate, or it may have 1–2 or rarely 3 branches in addition to the main pinna.

A. hispidulum Swartz is usually found on a rather dry slope or bank of a dry ditch, often associated with Doodia media. In its young state the frond has a delicate appearance, and is often bright red in colour; in maturity the frond is harsh and rigid in appearance, and dark green in colour.

A. affine Willd.: this, or the larger form at least, is one of our handsomest ferns. The best-developed specimens are to be looked for in lowland country, among shaded woods. In the larger forms the frond is divided into two or three pairs of pinnae with a long terminal one, the lower pairs usually being branched, so that the frond is really tripinnate or occasionally 4-pinnate. Smaller forms, often not more than 1–2 in. high, at times simply pinnate, are found on dry rocks.

A form with narrower and more acute pinnules occurs, in which the secondary rachides are more or less pubescent. This is probably a connecting-link with the next species.

A. fulvum Raoul occurs plentifully in drier parts of the forest. It is much more branched than A. affine, the fronds frequently being 4-pinnate.

12. Hypolepis Bernh.

Two of the three species (H. tenuifolia Bernh. and H. distans Hook.) occur, and, while they are distributed throughout the district, neither is at all common.

H. tenuifolia is rather a puzzling plant, owing not only to the varied forms it assumes in different habitats, but also to its close resemblance to Polypodium punctatum—a resemblance so close, indeed, that doubts have been expressed as to whether the two ferns are not merely varying forms of the one species.

Technically, the distinctions are as follows:—

Hypolepis.—Sorus placed on the sinuses between the teeth or lobes. Indusium composed of the reflexed scale-like tip of a lobule of the frond.

Polypodium.—Sorus close to the margin of the lobes, but not absolutely on the margin. Indusium entirely absent. Rhachis and stipes distinctly viscid-pubescent.

When the characteristics above alluded to are well marked there is no difficulty at all in distinguishing the two ferns; but, except in the young state, it is often difficult to detect the pseudo-involucre of Hypolepis. Sometimes, however, it is but feebly developed, and occasionally it is slightly developed in what, from the viscidity of the rhachis, is decidedly a Polypodium.

I have noted three chief forms of Hypolepis tenuifolia. In shaded lowland woods, often on the bank of a small creek, and always in moist soil, occurs the largest and handsomest form of all. The stipes is 1–4 ft. high, the frond 2–4 ft. long, and broad in proportion. This I take to be Cheilanthes pellucida Col.

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Another and smaller form occurs in the forest, usually on decaying masses of Asteliads which have fallen from the upper branches of trees. As this is also a favourite habitat of Polypodium punctatum, a careful examination is necessary to make sure as to which fern it is.

A third and very distinct form, though undoubtedly connected by intermediates, occurs in open damp land, often on the edge of a swamp, in full sunshine. This form is less robust as a rule, almost glabrous, and paler in colour, but usually the reflexed tip of the lobule is clearly marked.

H. distans Hook. is nowhere common, though scattered through the forest district, often, like Polypodium punctatum, growing on decaying vegetable matter. In damp shady parts of the forest it often attains much greater dimensions than are given in the Manual, which says, “Stipes, 3–9 in. long; fronds, 6–15 in. long, 3–6 in. broad.” Here it is not uncommon to find it with stipes 9–12 in.; frond, 24–36 in. long, 9–12 in. broad.

It is not uncommon for this handsome slender fern, when growing in great luxuriance, to assume the habit of a climber, twining itself for support round more robust plants among which it grows.

13. Cheilanthes Swartz.

Two species, one of which (C. Sieberi Kunze) is found here and there on dry rocks.

14. Pellaea Link.

There are two species of this fern in New Zealand, both of which are found in Mangonui County.

P. falcata Fée. has so far only been noticed in the vicinity of Kaitaia, where Mr. H. B. Matthews discovered it.

P. rotundifolia Hook. is plentiful, not in dry woods, as stated in the Manual, but chiefly in damp low-lying woods subject to inundation.

15. Pteris Linn.

The whole of the six species mentioned in the Manual occur in the district.

P. aquilina Linn. var esculenta Hook. f. covers vast areas where forests have been cleared and grasses have been sown insufficiently or have died out. This fern springs up in countless thousands on neglected burns. Probably before this country was settled by white people the area occupied by this now almost ubiquitous pest was very much more restricted.

“Fern-root,” the starchy rhizome of this plant, was at one time an important part of the vegetable food of the Maori, but it is to be noted that it was not all or any of the plants that were used. Certain places became noted for “roi,” the edible rhizome. Probably some difference or peculiarity of soil or situation rendered one particular patch more suitable than others, though I have failed to detect any structural differences in plants from these chosen spots.

It is also worthy of note that pigs enclosed on a patch of fern persistently neglect certain plants, though their rhizomes appear quite as succulent and as well developed as those they greedily devour.

P. scaberula A. Rich. occurs plentifully in dry open woods, but more particularly on exposed places, such as roadside cuttings and old landslips, where it forms a dense covering, almost to the exclusion of other vegetation.

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The curious scrambling, almost liane-like form occasionally assumed by P. aquilina when growing in the shade has been referred to by Dr. Cockayne.*

P. tremula R. Br. attains its greatest luxuriance when growing in damp, shaded, lowland woods. When well grown it stands 5–6 ft. high before the fronds droop gracefully outward.

P. macilenta A. Rich., like the above, grows most luxuriantly in damp lowland woods; but it occurs also in the forests, not only in shaded gullies, but on the drier slopes, and even among comparatively dry rocks. It is the most variable species of the genus. Two forms only are described in the Manual, the type and var. pendula (Col.) Cheesem., but there is another common and distinct form, usually occurring among rocks in the higher parts of the forest. It is much more slender than the type, with the primary pinnae fewer and more distant, 2–4 in. long; secondary pinnae 1–1½ in. long; pinnules ¼– ½ in. less deeply incised. It often occurs associated with the typical form, and has certairly a very distinct appearance, though doubtless there are intermediate forms connecting it with the type.

Some years ago I gathered in the bush on my farm a very unusual form which approaches very closely to P. comans. Referring to this in a letter, Mr. Cheeseman writes, “P. macilenta in its ordinary or typical form is very distinct from P. comans; but Colenso's P. pendula is about half-way between, and what you send is still nearer.”

P. comans Forst. is by no means common, occurring, as a rule, on the coast.

P. incisa Thunb.: This beautiful fern is common throughout. It thrives best in damp, lowland woods.

16. Lomaria Willd.

Fourteen species in New Zealand botanical area, of which nine species occur in this district.

Ferns of this family are noticeable from the fact that the fertile fronds differ considerably from the sterile. As a rule, the pinnae of the fertile fronds are narrow-linear, and frequently the entire under-surface is concealed by the sori. Many species develop a more or less erect caudex.

L. discolor Willd. is plentiful in forests, preferring the shady, moist parts. The fronds, rising obliquely from the outer edge of the upper part of the caudex, give the plant a striking resemblance to a crown.

L. lanceolata Spreng. is essentially a fern of the shade, forming graceful festoons on the banks of forest creeks.

L. Banksii Hook. f. is found only on the coast, where it thrives on dripping rocks. I know of only two stations in this district where it occurs, both on the west coast.

L. capensis Willd. is abundant in all situations. This fern is so variable in form and size that at first it is difficult to believe that the small forms found in swamps or on dry clay banks, with fronds often only a few inches long, can belong to the same species as the huge specimens growing on moist cliffs in shaded ravines, or on creek-banks in dark forest gullies, with fronds 8–10 ft. long.

[Footnote] * “Some Noteworthy New Zealand Ferns.” L. Cockayne, “The Plant World,” vol. 15, No. 3, p. 58, 1912.

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In the Manual four varieties of this fern are given. The first three appear to me to show very trivial differences, but var. minor Hook. f. is so different that I have no hesitation in classing it as a distinct species, approaching, as Mr. Cheeseman has pointed out, much nearer to L. vulcanica Blume

L filiformis A. Cunn. is abundant in forests, draping the trunks of trees with its dark-green pendulous fronds. This fern is “remarkable for its long climbing rhizome and dimorphic sterile fronds.” They might almost be called trimorphic, for in the juvenile form on the ground the sterile fronds are often only an inch or two in length, with pinnae ⅛–¼ in. long. Higher up they are 4–6 in. long, with pinnae ¼½ in., and still higher are fronds 1–2½2 ft. in length, with pinnae 1½2–4 in. long.

The fertile fronds have quite a feathery appearance, due to the slenderness of the pinnae and to the fact that they are usually gracefully curved, and curled at the ends.

L. nigra Col. is not uncommon in deep ravines in the more hilly parts of the district. In the Manual, Whangarei is given as the northern limit of this fern, but since its publication the occurrence of L. nigra is the far north has been recorded.*

L. fluriatilis Spreng. is plentiful in places, but local. It is most frequent, as its name implies, on the banks of streams in the forest, though it is by no means confined to such spots. The gracefully drooping crown of fronds makes this fern a welcome addition to the fernery.

L. membranacea Col. occurs frequently on creck-banks, damp forest slopes, and in lowland woods. In its juvenile form it is remarkable for the enlarged terminal part of the frond, closely resembling in shape small specimens of L. nigra.

Large specimens of this fern are sometimes rather difficult to distinguish from L. lanceolata, but, as a rule, in L. membranacea the pinnae are shorter and more obtuse, not decurrent at the base as in L. lanceolata, and distinctly separate one from another.

L. Fraseri A. Cunn.: Abundant in forests throughout. This fern is distinguished from all others of the family by its being the only one with bipinnate fronds. The long slender caudex gives this handsome fern the appearance of a miniature tree-fern. The caudex is occasionally over 3 ft. in length, and fronds much larger than the dimensions usually given in books occur. In the Manual the measurements given are: “Pinnae 2–3 in. long, pinnules ¼–⅓ in. long.” In specimens gathered in the forest here the dimensions are: Pinnae 4–6 in. long, pinnules ½–¾ in. long.

17. Doodia R. Br.

The two species both occur in the district.

D. media R. Br. is usually found in fairly open country, frequently associated with Adiantum hispidulum, and, like it, often red in colour in the young state.

D. caudata R. Br. can, as a rule, be at once distinguished from D. media by the marked difference of the sterile and fertile fronds; but forms occur which are difficult to place, and I think there is no doubt that the species pass into one another, if, indeed, they are not extreme forms of one species.

[Footnote] * Cheeseman, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 43, p. 185, 1911.

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18. Asplenium Linn.

Twelve species in New Zealand, of which nine occur in the Mangonui district. Various states of this beautiful family form a very characteristic feature of the New Zealand forest.

A. adiantoides C. Chr., perhaps better known as A. falcatum Lam., is one of the handsomest ferns we have. It may often be seen pendent from masses of Astelia in forest-trees; usually the pendulous forms are more elongated. I gathered a specimen near here which greatly exceeds the dimensions given in the Manual. The measurements there given are: Stipes, 6–12 in. long; fronds, 1–3 ft. long; pinnae, 12–25 pairs. The measurements of my specimen are: Stipes, 22 in.; frond, 5 ft. 4 in.; pinnae, 47 pairs. The total length of this specimen is 7 ft. 2 in.

A. obtusatum Forst. occurs sparingly on maritime rocks. This fern reminds me closely of the northern A. marinum.

A. lucidum Forst. is undoubtedly one of the most variable ferns we have. In addition to the type form, there are four varieties mentioned in the Manual, but there are many forms intermediate among them, and even forms connecting with other species.

The type form is plentiful in damp, shaded parts of the forest, and can usually be distinguished by its long acuminate pointed pinnae.

Var. obliquum Moore is a smaller, more coriaceous plant, much blunter in the pinnae, often, in exposed situations, hardly distinguishable from A. obtusatum, of which it is probably a connecting-link with A. lucidum.

Var. Lyallii Hook. f.: Rare in this district. One of the forms occurring here bears considerable resemblance to A. bulbiferum, even to bearing the bulbils.

A. Hookerianum Col. is apparently rare and local, a small variety having been gathered in the vicinity of Kaitaia.

A. bulbiferum Forst. is quite a characteristic fern of the shaded bush, attaining its greatest luxuriance in deep gullies. The typical form is very distinct, but there are many variable forms, some of which are rather puzzling.

Var. tripinnatum Hook. f. is a clearly marked form, but I am not at all clear as to var. laxum Hook f. In the Manual it is described as being without bulbils. I have a form, not uncommon in places, which agrees fairly well with the description of var. laxum, except that it as often as not produces bulbils. There is another, and not uncommon, form which, so far as I have seen, never produces bulbils at all. The frond is 12–18 in. long without the stipes, simply pinnate, or barely bipinnate in the lower part of the frond. Usually the pinnae are deeply toothed or lobed, especially on the upper part. It usually occurs on damp clay banks. This form is very distinct, and is, in my opinion, as worthy of varietal rank as any of the others. Possibly it is a transitional form approaching A. flaccidum.

A. flaccidum Forst. varies more in form, I think, than any other fern we have. No doubt the variations are due to a great extent to the nature of the habitat, but even among the epiphytic plants, and among plants growing on the same tree, there are remarkable differences in the shape, size, and angle of the lobes.

Among the terrestrial forms the differences are much greater. Rupestral forms are not unlike the pendent epiphytes except in size and rigidity, but forms growing in shady forests differ widely. One not uncommon

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form is bulbiferous, and closely resembles some forms of A. bulbiferum; another is very like a slender form of A. lucidum.

A. umbrosum J. Sm. is plentiful in moist shaded places. Its stout fleshy rhizome enables it to linger for years on alluvial flats after the forest has been cleared; so persistent is it, in fact, that it becomes a weed. The fronds are rather delicate, and blacken at the first frost.

A. japonicum Thunb.: This fern is plentiful in alluvial soil in the immediate neighbourhood of Kaiaka, and occurs here and there along the river-bank in the Kaitaia district.

It is by no means a common plant in New Zealand. It was, I believe, first noted in the Dominion on the Okura Creek (Bay of Islands); later I reported it from Kaitaia; and since then it has been found on the Northern Wairoa River. It grows best in low-lying alluvial woods.

19. Aspidium Swartz.

Seven species are listed in the Manual, two only of which grow in this district.

A. Richardii Hook. is usually found among rocks, maritime and inland. It varies considerably as to the extent to which the pinnae are divided, and the shape and toothing of the pinnules. As might be expected, forms growing on exposed rocks, maritime or inland, are more coriaceous in texture, and have shorter and blunter pinnules, than those whose habitat is more favourable.

A. adiantiforme (Forst.) J. Sm. is, in my opinion, one of the most handsome ferns we have. It occurs most freely on mounds of humus in the forest, often climbing for some distance up the trunks of trees. Small plants often grow on the stems of tree-ferns.

20. Nephrodium Rich.

Eight species, all of which, except the Kermadec Island N. setigerum Bak., occur in the county.

N. Thelypteris Desv. var. squamulosum Schlect. is found in several swampy places from the North Cape to Reef Point, rarely far from the sea.

This is one of the seven species of ferns which are common to Europe and the Southern Hemisphere. The others are Hymenophyllum Tunbridgense, H. unilaterale, Aspidium aculeatum, Gymnogramme leptophylla, Ophioglossum vulgatum, and Botrychium lunaria.

The var. squamulosum appears to be confined to New Zealand and South Africa.

N. decompositum R. Br. is not uncommon in damp woods in rich alluvial soil.

N. glabellum A. Cunn. occurs freely in damp shady forests. “Botanists are indebted to Mr. Kirk for clearing up the confusion which had arisen regarding this and the preceding species.”*

The main differences are that N. decompositum has a creeping rhizome, the fronds being scattered along it, while N. glabellum has a short tufted rhizome, with the fronds much narrower at the base and darker in colour.

N. velutinum Hook. f. is usually found in hilly forest, generally in rocky ground. The dense velvety pubescence distinguishes it from allied plants.

[Footnote] * “The Ferns and Fern Allies of New Zealand,” G. M. Thomson, p. 82.

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N. hispidum Hook. is a most characteristic fern of damp shaded gullies in the forest. It is one of the largest species in the family, and is easily distinguished by the rigid bristles on the stipes and rhachis.

N. gongylodes Schott, probably better known as N. unitum R. Br., is essentially a tropical fern, and was for a long time supposed to occur “only in the immediate neighbourhood of the hot springs and lakes of the North Island.”*

This fern is however, by no means uncommon in marshes, mostly maritime, from the North Cape to Reef Point.

N. parasiticum, Desv. = N. molle Desv.: Like N. unitum, this is a tropical fern. According to Thomson (l.c., p. 84), “It is only known certainly from one locality in New Zealand—viz., on the bank of the Otumakokori or Boiling River, at the foot of the Paeroa Range, in the North Island, and there it occurs sparingly.” Since then it was found on “margins of hot springs at Wairakei” (Taupo) (Manual, p. 1006). But more recent discoveries have shown that this lovely fern is not quite as restricted as was thought. Some years ago my friend Mr. H. B. Matthews, of Kaitaia, discovered a small patch of N. parasiticum on the slopes of Pukewhau, not far from Rangaunu Harbour, a wide opening on the north-east coast of the county. Last year he and I were delighted to find several fair-sized clumps and scattered plants on the bank of the Kaitaia-Awanui River, a few miles below Kaitaia. The situation is sheltered on all sides by tall scrub, and, judging from the size of the largest patch, the plant has been long established.

Mr. Matthews is of opinion that this fern was at one time fairly plentiful along the river, but the advent of cattle has caused it to decrease. He also thinks that the patch at Mangatete (Pukewhau) may have originated from spores carried by cattle, which in the early days were pastured sometimes on the river-bank, and at others in the hilly country around Mangatete, about ten miles distant. This is quite feasible, for a portion of a frond bearing ripe spores might have travelled from the one station to the other in the cleft of a bullock's hoof, or even if a beast had browsed off a part of a frond before leaving one place some of the spores so carried to the other might have developed in the new habitat; but, be this as it may, this rare fern occurs in both places.

Nephrodium parasiticum is a fern well worth a place in every fernery, but it requires a sheltered situation, thriving well in a glasshouse. Its palegreen delicate fronds, with slender acuminate pinnae, ascending and drooping gracefully, render the plant a ching of beauty.

Judging by the dimensions given in the Manual, our northern form is quite as well developed as the forms which occur in the heated soil and warm vapours of the Hot Lake district.

It is quite possible that this fern may yet be found in other parts of the county, or even south from here. “It has been recorded from Whangarei by Mr. Robert Mair.” This, however, has not been confirmed.

22. Polypodium Linn.

“This, the largest genus of ferns, containing over 500 species, found in all parts of the world” (Manual, p. 1008), is represented in New Zealand by ten species, all of which, save P. novae-zealandiae, occur in this district.

[Footnote] * “The Fern and Fern Allies of New Zealand,” G. M. Thomson, p. 84.

[Footnote] † Thomson, l.c, p. 84.

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P. punctatum Thunb. is, as noted under Hypolepis tenuifolia, so near to that species as to be very difficult of distinction, especially when dry. The technical differences between the two species are the recurved lobule forming a pseudo-involucre in H. tenuifolia, absent in P. punctatum, and the position of the sori—on the margins of the sinuses in Hypolepis, and farther from the margins in Polypodium. But in practice these are not altogether trustworthy. In some forms of Hypolepis the spurious involucre is hardly or not at all developed, and sometimes it appears slightly in Polypodium, while the sori of the latter are frequently distinctly marginal. When green, however, the viscid-pubescence of the stipes, rachides, and even of the pinnules of P. punctatum at once identifies this species.

P. pennigerum Forst. attains its greatest luxuriance in shaded gullies on the banks of streams, where it develops a caudex 1–4 ft. or more in length, giving the plant the appearance of a small tree-fern.

P. australe Mett. is not uncommon. It occurs on rocks and rather dry banks in the forest, but it is more common on the trunks of forest-trees. Var. villosum Hook. appears to be more plentiful than the type. It is difficult to get a good specimen, as the fronds are often attacked by some grub or insect.

P. grammitidis R. Br. is abundant on the trunks of small and the upper branches of large trees. Occasionally it is found among moss-covered peaty soil where the original forest is giving place to scrub.

P. tenellum Forst. is undoubtedly one of our loveliest ferns, climbing as it does to a considerable height up the trunks of trees, usually in damp lowland woods, and forming a graceful drape to the dull-brown trunks.

In the mature state this fern is simply pinnate, the pinnae “entire or obscurely undulate-crenate” (Manual, p. 1011); but the juvenile state is quite different—the pinnae are distinctly bipinnate, usually with 3 pairs of stipitate pinnules, and a prolonged lobulate termination.

P. serpens Forst. occurs plentifully, climbing by its long branched rhizome up trees or rocks. Its thick leathery fronds, dimorphous in form, render it a curious rather than an attractive plant.

P. dictyopteris Mett., better known under its old name, P. Cunninghamii Hook., is found in most forests in the damper parts, on trunks of trees or on rocks. It usually grows in considerable masses. It is remarkable how retentive of life this fern is. In summer the plants, especially those on rocks, look dry and withered, but a good shower of rain soon fills them up, and they look almost as fresh as ever.

P. pustulatum Forst. occurs plentifully in woods and forests, clothing the trunks of trees to a good height. It is one of the most variable, if not the most variable, of our ferns. In the juvenile form the frond is simple, linear-lanceolate, and in one variety this form is persistent, producing sori, but never attaining the size of the more common form with pinnatifid fronds.

P. Billardieri R. Br. is very plentiful on trees and rocks. This species, too, is exceedingly variable in form and size, according to the conditions of its habitat. Its juvenile form also is simple, and in dry situations this form is persistent. In a damper habitat the frond is deeply pinnatifid, with sometimes as many as 12 segments on each side.

25. Gleichenia Smith.

Of the five species of Gleichenia occurring in New Zealand all but G. dichotoma Hook., or, as it is now called, G. linearis C. B. Clarke, are more or less common.

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G. circinata Swartz and G. dicarpa R. Br.: There appear to be considerable differences of opinion as to whether the above are really two distinct species, or merely forms of one species. The technical distinctions appear to be mainly in the form of the segments of the pinnae, those of G. circinata being flat, while those of G. dicarpa are pouch-like; but, as Dr. Cockayne has pointed out,* this pouching of the segments appears to be more or less a matter of sunshine. On a shaded forest slope bordering on marshy land I gathered what I take to be var. hecistophylla in which the segments are perfectly flat and the rhachis almost destitute of the woolly scales, which, along with the pouch-like form of the segments, is quite evident in plants a few yards away exposed to the full sunshine. In drying, however, the plants of the shade become to a certain extent pouched. I have been in the habit of using the number of sporangia 1–4 in G. circinata, and 1–2, rarely 3, in G. dicarpa, but this is rather a frail support to base a distinction on.

G. Cunninghamii Heward occurs plentifully in forests, though it is absent from large areas. It is usually found in fairly high bush. Like the other species, it is proliferous, and a well-grown specimen showing several tiers of umbrella-like fronds has a very striking appearance.

G. flabellata R. Br. is not uncommon, usually in the moorland country, on the sides of streams, or on rather damp slopes.

In the three preceding species the fronds are arranged horizontally in an umbrella-like form; in G. flabellata, as indicated by the name, the frond is several times dichotomously divided, and ascends in a fan-like form.

26. Schizaea Smith.

The three species recorded in the Manual occur freely in this district.

S. fistulosa Labill. and S. bifida Swartz are common plants of the more barren parts of the moorlands. The simple or unbranched form of S. bifida is much commoner than the typical plant. It is always much smaller, but is readily distinguished from small forms of S. fistulosa by the broader and shorter fertile section. Now and again a bifid frond occurs on one of these plants.

S. dichotoma Swartz is not uncommon in kauri forests, but really good specimens are rare. I have two local ones, 14 in. and 18 in. long, but such finds are unusual.

27. Lygodium Swartz.

L. articulatum A. Rich. is abundant in forests, often climbing by its slender wiry stems to the tops of tall forest-trees. In its juvenile form it does resemble a fern, though it has an unusual appearance; but when it covers a tall shrub with its graceful fronds, or forms a light-green curtain 50 ft. or more long, hanging from a tall tree, it has a most unfernlike appearance.

28. Todea Willd.

Two of the three species recorded occur.

T. barbara Moore and T. hymenophylloides A. Rich.: Of these, the former is a true Todea; the latter is more frequently classed, as is also T. superba Col., with the genus Leptopteris.

T. barbara is a denizen of the moorlands of the extreme north of the North Island, extending in its habitat from the North Cape to the neighbourhood of Whangaroa. It is found in considerable quantities, in open

[Footnote] * “Some Noteworthy New Zealand Ferns,” Cockayne, p. 55.

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gullies as a rule, frequently with its roots in quite wet land and its fronds exposed to sun and wind. The best-known patch of T. barbara occurs near Mangonui, and its surroundings are markedly different from the usual spots occupied by it. At Mangonui this plant occurs associated with Leptospermum scrub, in dry barren-looking clay soil, the remains of an ancient landslide. In most other places where I have seen it it is closely associated with water. Near Cape Maria van Diemen it is found in an open gully, forming great tussocks in the middle of a morass which at the time I saw it, though after some months of severe drought, was thoroughly saturated. Near Kaitaia it occurs freely in sandy soil on the bank of a small moorland creek, the soil about the roots being quite wet all the year. Even at Mangonui, dry though its surroundings are, the more robust plants invariably occur in hollows, and no doubt the densely massed trunks, shaded by the close-growing fronds, will be able to absorb a considerable amount of moisture.

Dr. Cockayne's remarks on Todea and Leptopteris* are well worth a perusal.

T. hymenophylloides A. Rich, is a handsome fern, characteristic of the deep bush, where it occurs freely in damp gullies, in which it is protected from sun and wind. In well-matured forms the rhizome is produced into a caudex 2–4 ft. in height, from which rises a crown of graceful fronds.

29. Marattia Smith.

The one New Zealand species (M. fraxinea Smith) occurs sparingly in gullies of the Maungataniwha Range. At one time it was much more plentiful, but the axe of the settler and roving cattle are rapidly rendering this handsome species a thing of the past. The stipes of this fern is articulated at the base into a part of the tuberous rhizome mass, something like a horse's hoof in shape. In the olden days these parts of the plant, which contain the “bud” of succeeding plants, were set in the ground by the Natives as potatoes are now, and, when matured, the starchy rhizomes were cooked and eaten.

30. Ophioglossum Linn.

Both the species mentioned in the Manual occur.

O. lustianicum Linn.: “This, so far as New Zealand is concerned, consists of the varieties gramineum, lusitanicum, and minimum of the Flora and the Handbook” (Manual. p. 1027). The only form of this I have noticed occurs in sandy places near the sea; it is a small slender form, rarely exceeding 4 in. in height, often under 1 in.

O. vulgatum Linn. is not uncommon in damp grassy places and lowland scrub. It can usually be distinguished from O. lusitanicum by its larger size, the position of the lamina of the sterile frond, near the middle of the petiole, and the longer fertile spike, with a greater number of sporangia.

31.Botrychium Swartz.

One of the species included in the Manual occurs sparingly in the district—B. ternatum Swartz. It was at one time not uncommon, but the spread of settlement has changed the face of the country, and this, with many other interesting plants, is becoming rarer year by year.

[Footnote] *Cockayne, l.c., pp. 50–51.

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1. Phylloglossum Kunze.

“A genus of a single species, found in New Zealand, Tasmania, Victoria, and West Australia” (Manual, p. 1033).

P. Drummondii Kunze: This curious little plant is not uncommon on barren clay hills, though frequently absent from large areas. It varies considerably, in size and in the number of leaves, my specimens having 3–10 leaves.

2. Lycopodium Linn.

Eleven species occur in New Zealand, of which six only are found in this district.

L. Billardieri Spring, is a handsome dark-green Lycopod usually pendent from the branches or trunks of trees or from rocks, but it also occurs freely as a terrestrial plant among Leptospermum scrub.

L. densum Labill. occurs freely on clay hills. To the beginner it is rather a puzzling plant, owing to the variation in form of the juvenile and mature plants, and in mature plants to the striking differences between the sterile and fertile branches. In the fertile branches the leaves are more or less densely imbricating and closely appressed, while those of the young plants are much longer and more open in their setting. This species and the following one bear a striking resemblance to miniature pine-trees, the similarity being borne out by the cone-like spikes at the tips of the branchlets.

L. cernuum Linn. is abundant in open clay lands, usually among scrub. It not infrequently occurs on roadside cuttings and old landslides. It is undoubtedly one of the most handsome plants of its class.

L. laterale R. Br. is very plentiful wherever moist peaty soil occurs in the open. The short lateral spikes distinguish this species from its congeners.

L. Drummondii Spring.: This curious little Lycopod was first discovered by Mr. Colenso in 1839, in some locality between Ahipara and Cape Maria van Diemen (Manual, p. 1038). After that no botanist saw it again in the Dominion for about sixty-seven years, when it was rediscovered by my friend Mr. H. B. Matthews, of Kaitaia. It has only been noticed within a limited area in the wet peaty morass at the north end of Lake Tangonge, near Kaitaia. It is proposed to run a big drain through this morass, and, when this is done, I greatly fear that this interesting plant will cease to exist. It may, however, occur in similar country farther north.

L. volubile Forst., the “waewaekoukou” of the Maori, is probably the most widely spread species we have, and the most beautiful. It is frequently used in decorations, for which its long slender branched stems and spreading leaves, forming graceful festoons, make it very suitable.

3. Tmesipteris Bernh.

T. tannensis Bernh. is plentiful in forests, where it occurs most commonly on the stems of tree-ferns. Occasionally it is found on rocks or in masses of decayed vegetable matter.

4. Psilotum Swartz.

P. triquetrum Swartz is very rare in this district. It was collected by the late Mr. R. H. Matthews on maritime rocks in Rangaunu Harbour and at Merita Bay, the only habitats reported north of Rangitoto Island, near Auckland. It appears to be confined to the coast and to the Hot Springs region of the North Island.

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Abnormal Forms among Ferns.

Probably among no other class of plants are abnormal habits of growth so common and so varied as among ferns. Many of these forms are so persistent as to have become recognized as distinct varieties, or even distinct species. In many cases a clear series of gradual changes can be traced from one extreme form to another; in others the strange forms produced are clearly “sports,” eccentricities caused by environment, an unusual luxuriance manifested in extraordinary development of some feature of the plant or a depauperation due to the xerophytic conditions under which the plant has grown. In some cases these strange forms become permanent, thus establishing a variety; in, others the plants being removed to more favourable habitats become normal. Some of these forms may arise from cross-fertilization in the prothallial stage.

That such intermediate forms do exist is clear to all who have studied the various states of Doodia media and D. caudata, of Asplenium bulbiferum and A. Hookerianum, or of Todea hymenophylloides and T. superba, forms of which it is almost impossible to describe as belonging to either of the plants in the pair under consideration.

For some years I have noted and collected abnormal growths among ferns, and I propose to set down some of my observations, not so much to increase the knowledge on this point, but rather to elicit further information on a point of no little interest.


Irregularities in this family are apparently rare; bifurcation of the frond is all I have noticed, and that only in H. demissum, the commonest of them all.


C. medullaris and C. dealbata, especially in the juvenile form, frequently have the ends of one or more of the primary ferns bifurcated.


I have noticed a similar bifurcation in young fronds of this species, but all who are interested in this subject should refer to vol. 19 of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” where Mr. Buchanan figures and describes a remarkable plant of this species having 16 branches.


Of L. linearis I have a very curious form, collected by the late Mr. Andrew Thompson, of Aponga, in the Whangarei district. The fertile frond in the lower half is distinctly bipinnate, having adventitious rhachides bearing stipitate pinnae; higher up the pinnae are divided into 2–3 stipitate lobes.

L. cuneata has the upper part of the frond divided into two branches occasionally. The occurrence of bipinnate and simply pinnate fronds on the same plant has already been referred to.


Among the maidenhairs I have seen but few abnormal forms.

In A. diaphanum which is simply pinnate, or with one or two branches at the base of the main pinna, occasionally one of these branches is again

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branched, thus having 4 pinnae. Occasionally, too, the pinnae are bifurcated at the top. A curious form of this species collected by the late Mr. Andrew Thompson, at Motatau, has quite a compound frond, resembling a small form of A. affine.

A. hispidulum is usually dichotomously forked at the base of the frond, both forks being divided into 3–7 linear secondary divisions. Occasionally one or more of these divisions have small pinnate branches. The most curious form I have seen, and that only twice among hundreds of plants examined, has, instead of simple pinnules on the main branches of the secondary divisions, distinctly pinnate branchlets, giving to the plant quite a different appearance from its usual form.

An unusually luxuriant specimen of A. fulvum gathered near Pukekohe is distinctly 5-pinnate. This species is “2–3-pinnate or rarely in large specimens 4-pinnate at the base” (Manual, p. 964).

A form occurs which seems to be intermediate between A. affine and A. fulvum, having some of the characteristics of each.


Some time ago I collected a very curious form of Pellaea. Some of the fronds are very similar to ordinary forms of P. rotundifolia, except that the sori are continuous round the margin; but other fronds from the same plant have pinnae of very unusual shapes, with curious lobes, two at least of them being bifidly cleft. The sori of these are all continuous. This is perhaps an intermediate form, between P. falcata and P. rotundifolia.


I have not noticed many abnormal forms in this family; still, there are a few.

In P. aquilina there is a curious form occasionally seen in barren land. The frond, including the stipes, is 4–12 in. high. The lower pinnae are again pinnate for one-third of their length; the rest of them and the whole of the upper pinnae consist of linear obtuse segments 2–4 in. long, crenately lobed almost to the extremity. A very curious form has the segments of the primary and secondary pinnae curved, once or twice forked, ending abruptly or elongated beyond the others, giving the whole plant a very eccentric appearance.

I have also a form of P. tremula showing similar aberrations in the ultimate pinnae only.


L. discolor: “The fronds are frequently forked at the top, and a beautiful sport is in cultivation in which the pinnae are greatly expanded in the upper two-thirds of their length, and deeply pinnatified” (Manual, p. 977). I have not seen this.

L. lanceolata is occasionally forked at the apex of the frond.

L. capensis is the species which, owing doubtless to its variety of forms, exhibits the greatest number of abnormal forms.

The most common variations from the normal are those showing the upper part of the frond or the tips of the pinnae dichotomously divided.

I have met with one form with the ends of the pinnae curiously toothed, so that at first glance one would think it had been bitten by grubs or beetles, but a closer examination shows that the curious toothed lobes are quite natural.

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In another form most of the pinnae are deeply incised or lobed in the lower half, the upper half on each being normal.

A very unusual form shows an abnormal development of secondary pinnae. This is from a fair - sized plant with fronds about 6 ft. long. Several of the pinnae were again pinnate. This, I think, is very unusual.

In several of the Lomariae, especially in L. capensis, there is a tendency to irregularity in the fertile frond. In some one side of the frond is entirely or almost entirely sterile, the other fertile; or the fertile pinnae may be partly fertile only, the base and extremity being sterile.

In L. Fraseri, so far as I have seen, abnormal forms are rare. About a month ago, however, I came across two specimens showing unusual growths. In one the frond is bifurcated at the apex; in the other most of the pinnae for two-thirds of the frond from the base, and usually the apex of the frond, are divided into 2–3 narrow toothed lobes, which are often again divided, giving the fern a crested appearance.


Both D. media and D. caudala lend themselves to an almost endless variety of forms, some of them so strange and fantastic that one is forced to believe that nature was suffering from nightmare when she designed them.

One very graceful form is a small variety, with stipes only about 1 in. long, frond 4–9 in., with pinnae ⅛– ½ in. long. In this form the lobes are always much more sharply toothed—spinous, in fact—suggesting an arrested juvenile form.

The most ordinary abnormality is the forking of the elongated upper section of the frond; not uncommonly one of these forks is again forked.

In one specimen this forking is carried to an extraordinary degree, one of the main forks being divided into 3 secondary branches, the other into 2. On the same plant a frond has one of the forks divided into 4 branches, two of which are again branched, but it is too much “mixed up” to show in a drawing.

In a curious state of D. caudata, not uncommon in a lowland forest near Kaiataia, most of the fronds are more or less forked at the apex or pinnately divided at the base.


Many curious forms occur among some of the species of Asplenium.

A. lucidum is not infrequently forked at the apex of the frond or at the extremities of the pinnae. A specimen I gathered near Kaitaia nearly thirty years ago has a curious thumb-like projection from the upper sides of the bases of the pinnae in the middle of the frond.

A persistent juvenile form of variety obliquum occurs. The fronds are simple, resembling miniature specimens of the hart's tongue of the Northern Hemisphere (Scolopendrium); this is probably a depauperated state, but it lasts for years, and produces spores readily.

In a very unusual form almost every pinna is deeply lobed or incised, often almost symmetrically. On the same plant were fronds almost normal, but no frond was without two or three at least more or less lobed pinnae.

From the same locality, near Ahipara, I got numerous specimens in which in place of fairly regular lobes the pinnae are mostly deeply and irregularly notched or lacerated, looking almost as though the cat had been at them, but the clear margins show that this is a natural growth.

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Another specimen shows a strangely lobed form; several of the lobes are so folded in since drying as to become hidden.

It has struck me as possible at least that some of these curious forms of A. lucidum are states between the type and var. Lyallii, but I know too little of the latter to do more than suggest the idea, in the hope that some one else may come forward with an opinion on the point.

A. Hookerianum: Several very puzzling states occur which are difficult to distinguish from A. bulbiferum. I think there is no doubt that these two species, in some of their forms, pass into one another, so that it is practically impossible to distinguish the form as belonging to the one or the other.

A. bulbiferum: Though so varied in form, this fern does not seem to produce much in the way of abnormalities, the most common being the forking of the apex of the frond or of some of the pinnae.


N. decompositum and N. glabellum not uncommonly have the upper part of the frond forked. The ultimate segments of the lower pinnae, too, often show this form.

In several places about here is a crested form of N. glabellum, usually smaller than the type, and more finely cut.


In P. pennigerum it is not uncommon to find the upper part of the frond forked. A curious form of this fern was collected in the Aponga (Whangarei) district by the late Mr. Andrew Thompson in January, 1905, and in this district by myself some months later. The peculiarity is that at the base of each pinna, from the middle of the frond, or higher, downwards there are two accessory pinnules, one on the upper and one on the lower side, the upper one being about 2 in. and the lower 1 in. long. Mr. Cheeseman, referring to this, says, “The Polypodium pennigerum with the accessory pinnule at the base of the primary pinnae is quite new to me. If it were constant and prevalent in any particular locality it would be worth noticing as a variety.”

P. serpens occasionally show a wonderful development of rhizome. In specimens gathered near here the creeping rhizomes are divided into 4–8 main branches; these branches are again and again divided, ending in from 40 to 200 growing points, the conglomerate growth thus formed being 2–4 in. long trom the branching to the growing points, and about the same width. I have not noticed this strange growth in any other fern, and am unable to suggest any reason for it.

A very unusual state of P. dictyopteris occurs, in which, in place of the ordinary lanceolate or linear-lanceolate form, the frond is more or less broadened, and the margin broken up into numerous elongated lobes, giving the fern a general resemblance to some forms of P. Billardieri. It is twenty-six years since I first saw this form, on Mount Maungatapere, near Whangarei, and it was not until last year that I again met with it, in two places in this district.

With regard to P. pustulatum, it is difficult to decide which form is typical and which abnormal. I think most of them are abnormal. Still, I suppose we may take as typical the small form 3–9 in. long, quite entire and simple, and the larger pinnatifid form. That being so, the forms with forked fronds must be abnormal, and there seems to be no end to the curious

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ways in which they fork—some a simple bifurcation, others, as in a specimen I gathered near Pukekohe, with 3 branches, each branch having 2–4 tertiary branches, some of which are again divided, finally ending in 28 branch-points. In another specimen, not forked, the segments are coarsely toothed, the teeth often being prolonged to linear processes ¼ in. in length.

P. Billardieri occasionally occurs in a handsome crested form. So far I have only found sterile fronds in this state, but the fertile crested form was collected by the late Mr. R. H. Matthews a good many years ago, and recently by Mr. H. Bedggood, near Kaitaia. In ordinary states the sterile frond of P. Billardieri has the segments ⅓–1 ½ in. wide, 1–5 in. long, in opposite or almost opposite pairs, set, at the base at least, almost at right angles with the rhachis, and the texture of the whole frond is very coricaeous. In the crested form the segments are narrower where they emerge from the wing of the rhachis, less regularly opposite, often distinctly alternate, and set at an oblique upward angle. Most of the segments are divided into secondary segments, which are often again and again divided, and the whole frond is very much thinner in texture. So different, in fact, is this form that I am inclined to fancy it a distinct species.


In S. fistulosa the pinnae of the fertile segment are occasionally branched. As I have only noticed one case of this, I conclude that it is of rare occurrence.


L. articulatum sometimes develops a rather unusual form in the fertile pinnae, in which the pinnules are distinctly leafy, ¼–1 in. long, having the spikelets of sporangia at the extremities of the pinnules or on leafy branches of them.


M. fraxinea is frequently bifurcately or trifurcately divided at the ends of the pinnules. In juvenile forms the pinnae on the same frond may be simple, pinnatifid, or pinnatifid-pinnate—that is, one side of the pinna is pinnate, the pinnules clearly stalked, or parts of both sides may be pinnatifid, the outer part of the pinna bearing stipitate pinnules.


O. lusitanicum not infrequently produces 4 fronds, and very rarely the fertile spike is double, or forked from about the middle.


B. ternatum, as a rule, has but one fertile segment; rarely, however, in luxuriant forms a second one branching from higher up the petiole of the sterile segment occurs


In L. Billardieri occasionally the spikes, instead of branching dichotomously, are conglomerated into a mass of crowded heads with the sporangia compacted together at the very extremity.

L. Drummondii has been gathered near Kaitaia with 2 spikes on a peduncle, but this is very rare.

I trust that others who are interested in the subject of abnormal growths may be induced to publish the results of their investigations.