Gleichenia dicarpa


Gleichenia: After the German naturalist and plant physiologist Wilhelm Friedrich (Baron) von Gleichen (1717-1783)
dicarpa: two seeded; from the greek di and karpos; paired spore clusters

Common Name(s)

tangle fern, swamp umbrella fern

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


Gleichenia dicarpa R. Br.



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



Gleichenia circinnata Sw.; Gleichenia dicarpa var. hecistophylla (A.Cunn.) G.Schneid.; Gleichenia semi-vestita var. hecistophylla (A.Cunn.) Hook.f.; Gleicheniastrum hecistophyllum var. majus (T.Moore) Nakai; Gleichenia circinnata var. hecistophylla (A.Cunn.) Hook.f.; Gleichenia dicarpa var. major T.Moore; Gleicheniastrum hecistophyllum (A.Cunn.) Nakai; Mertensia dicarpa (R.Br.) Poir.; Platyzoma dicarpum (R.Br.) Desv.; Calymella dicarpa (R.Br.) C.Presl; Calymella major Nakai; Gleichenia hecistophylla A.Cunn.


Indigenous. New Zealand. North, South, Stewart and Chathams Islands. Also Australia, New Caledonia, Philippines, Borneo and Malaysia


Coastal to subalpine in poorly drainning soils, clay pans and pakihi and peat bogs. In lowland peat bogs often forming dense, almost impenetrable masses hence the common name "tangle fern".


Rhizome 1.5-3.0 mm diameter, at first bearing brown lanceolate ciliate scales. Fronds of 1-4 tiers of branches, 0.1-2.0 m or more long; lower tiers often branching, usually more than 150 mm wide. Stipes scattered along rhizomes, 0.6-0.95 m long, often bearing brown lanceolate ciliate scales; rachis bearing weak brown to white often matted stellate hairs and ciliate scales.Pinnules glabrous above or with scattered hairs along costa, with sparse or dense whitish to ferruginous scales along costa below; ultimate segments 0.8-1.5 mm long, 0.8-2.0 mm wide, more or less round, obtuse, flat or slightly convex above, pouched below; undersurface white, rarely green. Sori of 2 sporangia only. Description adapted from Chinnock & Bell (1998).

Similar Taxa

Often confused with Gleichenia microphylla which is a taller plant, with ultimate segments flattened, and distinctly triangular, which are abaxially green (never white), and which bear 2-4 sporangia. Gleichenia alpina is very similar to G. dicarpa from which it differs by its consistently smaller fronds (rarely > 60 mm wide, and rounded rather than lanceolate scales. Recently it has been shown that Gleichenia alpina is present in New Zealand, though its exact distribution is still unclear (Perrie et al. 2007; Perrie et al. 2012). Gleichenia inclusisora differs from G. dicarpa (with which it often grows) by the sori which are embedded up to three-quarters of their depth into the undersides of the fronds, and also by the glossy rather than mostly dull upper frond surface.



Flower Colours

No Flowers



Propagation Technique

Fickle. Probably best left alone. Transplants have sometimes been successfully grown in shaded conditions with plants planted in an acid, poorly drained soil. But results vary and plants tend to resent any root disturbance


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 40

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 15 March 2011. Description adapted from Chinnock & Bell (1998).

References and further reading

Chinnock, R.J.; Bell, G.H. 1998: Gleicheniaceae. Flora of Australia 48: 148-162.

Perrie, L.R.; Shephard, L.D.; Brownsey, P.J. 2012: Gleichenia inclusisora, a new and uncommon tangle fern from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 50: 401-410.

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 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 28 Sep 2014