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In The Hills In The Hills 2016-07

Blechnum discolor < Species index > Blechnum fluviatile

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 88, no 6, July 2016

July in the hills with Barbara Mitcalfe and Chris Horne

panako1.jpg: 737x472, 97k (2016 Aug 24 00:00)
1. Juvenile thread fern
Photo: Jeremy Rolfe

Blechnum filiforme, pānako, thread fern, climbing hard fern

If you're tramping in forest and notice a fern climbing high on tree trunks, it's almost certainly pānako, Blechnum filiforme, the only blechnum species which is high-climbing. It is found in coastal and lowland forests in the North Island and the northern coast of the South Island. This NZ endemic fern is unique in having three types of fronds: juvenile; sterile adult and fertile adult.

1. Juvenile

On the ground, you will see some small, deep-green, juvenile fronds creeping over banks and rocks before beginning to climb. These little fronds are narrowly elliptic, usually no wider than 5 cm and only up to 25 cm long, with 15–20 pairs of coarsely-toothed segments either side, each only 5-25 x 2–8 mm. (See image no. 1).

2. Sterile adult

As pānako's thin, dark, scaly rhizome elongates itself and begins to climb vertically, clinging closely to the tree trunk, it sprouts dense trusses of adult, sterile fronds as it goes. These bright-green fronds get much bigger as they mature, often reaching c. 60 x 15 cm, and almost completely covering the tree trunk. They have up to 30 pairs of segments arranged pinnately on the rachis, (i.e., in pairs along the stem), each segment narrowly elliptic, toothed, stalked, up to 9 x 5 cm, and tapering to a fine point, rather like Asplenium polyodon. (See image, In The Hills February 2016).

panako2.jpg: 737x494, 105k (2016 Aug 24 00:00)
2. Sterile fronds beneath fertile fronds
Photo: Jeremy Rolfe

3. Fertile adult

You may recall that the sterile fronds of all blechnum species are different from the fertile fronds. When pānako's growing tip has reached a height of c. 2 m up the tree trunk, it starts to produce its third type of frond. These are about the same size as the sterile ones, i.e., c. 60 x 15 cm, but otherwise they are completely different - delicate and fertile. Many fine, flexuous, thread-like strands sprout from each side of the rachis. (See image no. 2). They are so flimsy that even a light breeze causes them to quiver. Hence the names, “filiforme” and “thread fern”.


Despite their apparent fragility, these fertile fronds contain the spores, which ripen and reproduce as usual, via prothalli, etc., just as we have described for other ferns.


Pānako is highly decorative, adding its own distinctiveness and amenity to the forest ambience. Along with all other green plants, it contributes to the supply of oxygen. We do not know of any rongoā uses.

See also

Blechnum chambersii Nini Lance fern 2016-10
Blechnum colensoi Peretao Colenso's hard fern 2016-05
Blechnum discolor Piupiu Crown fern 2016-04
Blechnum filiforme Pānako Thread fern; Climbing hard fern 2016-07
Blechnum fluviatile Ray water fern 2016-08
Blechnum novae-zelandiae Kiokio 2016-06
Blechnum penna-marina Little hard fern; alpine hard fern 2016-11
Blechnum vulcanicum Korokio Mountain hard fern 2016-09

Page Category

In The Hills 2016-06 < Index chronological > In The Hills 2016-08

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