November in the hills with Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe
Asplenium flaccidum, hanging spleenwort, makawe o Raukatauri
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.
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.
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.
|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|