Adiantum cunninghamii


Adiantum: From the Greek a- 'without, lacking' and diantos 'moistened', the fronds of this fern are supposed to remain dry after submersion in water
cunninghamii: Named after Allan Cunningham (1791 – 1839) who was an English botanist and explorer, primarily known for his travels to Australia (New South Wales) and New Zealand to collect plants. Author of Florae Insularum Novae Zelandiae Precursor, 1837-40 (Introduction to the flora of New Zealand).

Common Name(s)

Common maidenhair, Cunninghams maidenhair

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Adiantum cunninghamii Hook.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class



Adiantum formosum var. cunninghamii (Hook.) F.Muell.; Adiantum trapeziforme G.Forst.; Adiantum affine var. chathamicum Field; Adiantum affine var. pullum (Colenso) Domin; Adiantum affine sensu G.M. Thomson; Adiantum formosum sensu A.Rich.; Adiantum pullum Colenso


Endemic. Kermadec, Three Kings, North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands.


Common throughout in coastal and lowland forest, occasionally extending into upper montane forests. Usually found on banks, cliff faces and amongst boulders - especially on limestone, marble, basalt or andesite rocks.


Tufted, terrestrial fern. Rhizomes, short- to long-creeping. Stipes and rachises glabrous. Fronds adaxially dark green or glaucescent, abaxially paler, glaucous green, ovate to elliptic. Lamina 100-350 x 50-240 mm, 2-3-pinnate at base, Ultimate segments stalked to one side, oblong, tending to curve acroscopically at apices, upper margins irregularly toothed, lower margins smooth, glabrous. Indusia kidney-shaped, glabrous.

Similar Taxa

Could be confused with A. fulvum, and A. viridescens. From both it is immediately distinguished by the glabrous rather than hairy primary pinnae. However, in situations of uncertainty A. fulvum is easily distinguished by its glabrous rather than hairy ultimate segment undersides, and A. viridescens differs by the narrower often sickle-shaped, shiny, dark green, ultimate segments, and glabrous primary pinnae.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Slow but once established easy. Best grown from spores which must be sown fresh. Spores may take several years to produce plants.


Not Threatened.

Chromosome No.

2n = 116

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Minute spores are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Fact Sheet Prepared for NZPCN by: P.J. de Lange (June 2005). Description adapted from Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000).

References and further reading

Brownsey, P.J.; Smith-Dodsworth, J.C. 2000: New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants. Auckland, David Bateman

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 6 Dec 2014