Pellaea falcata


Pellaea: dark fern; from the greek pellos; dark leaf and leaf stalk
falcata: From the Latin falx 'scythe' or 'sickle', meaning sickle-shaped

Common Name(s)

Sickle fern, Australian cliff brake

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Declining

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 - At Risk - Relict
2004 - Gradual Decline


2012 - PD, SO
2009 - SO, DP


(R.Br.) Fée



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



Pteris falcata R.Br., Platyloma falcata (R.Br.) J.Smith, Allosorus falcatus (R.Br.) Kunze, Pteris seticaulis Hook.


Indigenous. Common in eastern Australia. In New Zealand primarily a species of northern offshore islands but also known from a few locations in Northland, Auckland and Coromandel.


Coastal in short scrub, on cliff faces and in open forest. Often on small islands, also inland on scoria and basalt rocks around Auckland City.


Shortly rhizomatous, tufted fern. Stipes 70-250 mm, stipes and rachises erect, dark brown, densely clad in spreading scales. Frond linear, pinnate, 200-500 x 30-70 mm. Pinnae, shortly stalked, oblong-falcate to distinctly falcate, 15-40 x 7-15 mm, evenly spaced, margins smooth, glossy green above, paler below. Sori in two marginal bands reaching toward but not meeting at pinna apices.

Similar Taxa

Differs from P. calidirupium by a more northerly habit, has larger, distinctly falcate pinnules, smaller less offset terminal pinna, spreading stipe and frond scales, and by the sori which are not continuous along the margin of the pinna. Differs from P. rotundifolia by oblong-falcate pinnules. Inland intermediates are frequent but seem to represent another form or complex of forms allied to P. rotundifolia. True P. falcata is rarely seen in NZ except on some northerly offshore islands.


Spore bearing fronds may be found throughout the year

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Spore bearing fronds may be found throughout the year

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh spores. Very fast growing and an excellent pot plant. Does well in a variety of soils, light levels and moisture regimes but intolerant of weeds.


Its status has been confused due to the occurrence of intermediate forms between it and P. rotundifolia. Some appear to be stable, apomictic races requiring further study. Excluding these forms means the typical species is very uncommon primarily confined to northern offshore islands, on several of which it is now threatened by weeds. It has also been collected from mainland stations as far south as Kawhia and Thames. Many mainland sites are threatened by weeds and coastal development. In some places it is or has recently been threatened by over-collection. Herbarium evidence shows this species was once common on the volcanic cones of Auckland City, but due to targetted collection, the species has all but vanished from this area within the last forty years.

Chromosome No.

2n = 116

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Occasionally available from some specialist native plant nurseries. However, most nursery stock seems to be of Australian origin.


Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (21 April 2006). 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

This page last updated on 13 May 2014