Asplenium flaccidum


Asplenium: From the Greek a- 'without' and splene 'spleen', a northern hemisphere species, the black spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum), was once believed to be a cure for diseases of the spleen.
flaccidum: Weak or limp; from the Latin flaccidus; habit of the leaves

Common Name(s)

Drooping spleenwort, hanging spleenwort

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


Asplenium flaccidum G.Forst.



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



Darea odontites (Thunb.) Willd.; Asplenium bulbiferum var. flaccidum (G.Forst.) Domin; Asplenium marinum var. flaccida (G.Forst.) F.Muell.; Caenopteris novae-zeelandiae Spreng.; Caenopteris odontites Thunb.; Darea flaccida (G.Forst.) Willd.; Asplenium heterophyllum A.Rich.; Asplenium odontites (Thunb.) R.Br.; Caenopteris flaccida (G.Forst.) Thunb.


Indigenous. Kermadec, Three Kings, North, South, Stewart, Chatham and Snares Islands. Also present in Australia and the wider Pacific


Coastal to montane (at the tree limit). In tall forest, scrub or rough boulder strewn ground. Mostly epiphytic on various native trees but also found on the ground.


Mostly epiphytic. Rhizome short, stout, erect, bearing dark brown subulate scales up to 20 × 2 mm. Stipes 50-200 mm (or more) long, brown on underside, green above, flaccid, sparingly covered in small subulate scales with long filiform apices. Laminae lanceolate to elliptic, 150-900 (or more) × 50-250 mm, dull green, thick, leathery, limp and pendulous, pinnate to bipinnate. Raches green, sparingly scaly. Pinnae in 5-20 (or more) pairs, linear, acuminate, long stalked, 50-150 × 5-20 mm; degree of dissection very variable, sometimes only divided into very short obtuse segments, sometimes pinnate. Pinnules very variable in length, from oblong and obtuse to linear and acute, up to 15 × 2 mm. Basal acroscopic pinnule occasionally much longer than that next to it. Sori submarginal, linear, 2-10 mm long. Spores (31-)36-44(-50) micrometre long, (19-)23-27(-33) micrometre wide

Similar Taxa

Allied to Asplenium haurakiense (Brownsey) Ogle from which it differs by its mostly epiphytic growth habit, wider ecological range (from exposed coastal areas through forest to the tree line), tetraploid (2n = 144) rather than octoploid (2n = 288) chromosome number, subulate rhizome and stipe scales (with long filiform apices and thin cell walls); pendulous rather than stiffly erect, dull green rather than usually glossy green, lanceolate to elliptic fronds; by the basal acroscopic pinnule which is only occasionally much longer than that next to it, and rarely pinnatifid; and by the smaller spores. Asplenium appendiculatum (Labill.) C.Presl subsp. appendiculatum occupies similar habitats and is somewhat similar. It can be distinguished from A. flaccidum by its usually terrestrial growth habit, octoploid (2n = 288) rather than tetraploid (2n = 144) chromosome number, and by having a more or less erect frond and a larger spore size


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Easily grown. An excellent pot and hanging basket fern. Can be slow establish. Prefers semi-shade, and should be planted in a fertile, free draining soil.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 144

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Notes on taxonomy

Kermadec Island plants are potentially distinct and seem closer to A. haurakiense. Further research into their status is needed.


Description modified from Brownsey (1977)

References and further reading

Brownsey, P.J. 1977: A taxonomic revision of the New Zealand species of Asplenium. New Zealand Journal of Botany 15: 39-86.

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 8 Aug 2016