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In The Hills In The Hills 2015-11

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 87, no 10, November 2015

November in the hills with Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe

Asplenium flaccidum, hanging spleenwort, makawe o Raukatauri

Aspleniumflaccidum.jpg: 962x1091, 249k (2016 May 29 21:37)
Asplenium flaccidum epiphytic on a tree trunk.
Photo: Paul Newport, Hinewai Reserve

In the October issue of The Tramper, we described Asplenium oblongifolium. In this issue we describe another common member of the Asplenium fern genus, Asplenuim flaccidum. The second part of its name refers to the naturally pendulous habit of its fronds. The Māori name means ‘the tresses on the head of Raukatauri, the atua / supernatural being’ who was believed to be the spirit of forest music. She is named after the flute-shaped cocoon of the case-moth caterpillar. Have you noticed those cocoons hanging from the trunks and branches of trees and shrubs?

No doubt you have seen this strikingly graceful fern hanging from a tree trunk, a branch, a tree-fern trunk, a rock face or a log on the forest floor. It is almost always epiphytic, i.e., perching on another plant, but it is not a parasite. You occasionally see it growing terrestrially, i.e., on the ground, where the wind carried its parent spore.

Distribution

Hanging spleenwort is common in a wide variety of habitats throughout NZ, from lowland to montane forests, rocky subalpine sites, and on coastal sites, from the Kermadecs and Three Kings, to Rēkohu / Chatham Island, Rakiura / Stewart Island and the Antipodes Islands. It is also native to Australia.

Form, size, reproduction

Its leathery fronds have a wide variety of forms. They are usually pendulous, up to 1.25 m long and 6-100 x 4-25 cm wide in forest sites, but on exposed sites, e.g., on the coast, are often shorter. Each frond comprises numerous narrow segments, which vary in shape, are dull green, toothed, and 2-20 x 0.5-2 cm. The segments bear the reproductive organs, sori, which form at the edges of the teeth. Spores, which develop within the sori, eventually ripen, then are carried by the wind to another location, where they may germinate.

Uses

We have been unable to find references to rongoā / medicinal or other uses for makawe o Raukatauri. Trampers use the plant’s attractive pendulous habit as a feature in their photographs of the plant itself, or as a point of interest in the foreground of a photograph of a forest scene.

See also

Asplenium bulbiferum Manamana Hen and chickens; Mother fern 2015-12
Asplenium flabellifolium Necklace fern; Walking fern; Butterfly fern 2016-03
Asplenium flaccidum Makawe o Raukatauri Hanging spleenwort 2015-11
Asplenium oblongifolium Huruhuru whenua Shining spleenwort 2015-10
Asplenium polyodon Petako Sickle spleenwort 2016-02
Category
Botany 2015

Page last modified on 2017 Jun 25 09:03

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