Asplenium lyallii


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.
lyallii: Named after David Lyall (1817-1895), 19th century Scottish naturalist and surgeon with the Royal Navy, who explored Antarctica, New Zealand, the Arctic and North America and was a lifelong friend of Sir Joseph Hooker.

Common Name(s)

Lyall's 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 lyallii (Hook.f.) T. Moore



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



Asplenium anomodum Colenso; Asplenium bulbiferum var. triste (Raoul) Hook.f.; Asplenium lucidum var. anomodum (Colenso) Cheeseman; Asplenium obtusatum var. anomodum (Colenso) Domin; Asplenium obtusatum var. lyallii G.M.Thomson; Asplenium triste Raoul; Asplenium lucidum var. lyallii Hook.f.


Endemic. New Zealand: North (from Port Waikato south to Wellington), South (North-West Nelson otherwise mainly eastern), Stewart and Chatham Islands


Coastal to alpine. A basicole favouring base rich substrates but especially calcareous rocks (limestone and marble) and basalt rock. In tall forest, scrub or on exposed rock surfaces. Often present in cave entrances.


Rhizome stout, ascending, bearing brown subulate to narrowly triangular scales up to 25 × 2 mm. Stipes 30-200 mm long, pale brown at base and on underside, green elsewhere, covered with scales similar to but smaller than those of the rhizome. Laminae lanceolate to elliptic, 40-400 × 20-200 mm, dark shiny green to dull grey-green, pinnate to bipinnate. Raches normally green, occasionally brown on the underside, often grooved, scaly. Pinnae 2-16 pairs, ovate to narrowly oblong, obtuse to acuminate, serrate to ± entire, stalked, 10-100 × 5-50 mm, often covered on both surfaces with tiny scales. Lowermost pinnae normally at least partially lobed or divided at the base, sometimes completely pinnate; pinnules stalked, lanceolate to elliptic, obtuse, serrate to entire, up to 30 × 15 mm. Sori up to 10 mm long, not reaching lamina edge.

Similar Taxa

Asplenium lyallii is rather variable and segregates into two distinct frond forms. The first of these, once known as A. anomodum Colenso, is almost exclusively associated with calcareous rocks and soils and has fronds < 30 mm wide, not thick and fleshy; pinnae often with scales on both surfaces; the second is more widespread in coastal to alpine situations, though always on base-rich rocks and has fronds that are 2- or more pinnate, but lack bulbils; are dull above; and without a creeping rhizome. The sori of both forms is consistently remote from margin, and 4-10 mm long.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Although rather slow growing this is a very attractive species which is excellent in a pot or on a shaded rock wall.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 288

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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


Description 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 10 May 2014