Adiantum aethiopicum


Adiantum: From the Greek a- 'without, lacking' and diantos 'moistened', the fronds of this fern are supposed to remain dry after submersion in water
aethiopicum: Africa (especially South Africa); name derived from Aethiops, an African and son of Vulcan, the Greek God of metalworking and fire

Common Name(s)

maidenhair, makaka, true 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 aethiopicum L.



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 assimile Sw.; Adiantum trigonum Labill.


Indigenous. New Zealand. North and South Islands from Te Paki south to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, thence rather localised and often absent from large areas until the Wairarapa. Recorded once from the Buller River gorge in the South Island but not seen recently in the South Island. Also New Caledonia, Australia and South Africa.


Coastal to lowland. Despite its delicate appearance Adiantum aethiopicum is often found in very dry, exposed sites in short grassland, on clay pans, stable dunes systems, open scrub and forest. It is also occasionally found in periodically flooded ground in riparian forest and on damp clay banks in shaded gullies.


Tufted, stoloniferous fern. Rhizome long-creeping (stoloniferous), to 3 mm diameter; wiry, c.1.5 mm diameter; scales chartaceous, yellow, transparent, broadly deltoid, entire, often spirally curled. Fronds yellow-green or bright green, densely tufted, or sometimes scattered along stolons up to 750 mm long. Stipe to 400 mm long, glossy, glabrous, red-brown, bearing conspicuous basal scales similar to those of rhizome. Lamina 120-400 × 50-230 mm, 3-pinnate, ovate to deltoid. pinnae narrowly deltoid. Pinnules round to flabellate; distal margin sometimes shallowly lobed; lobe margins entire or obscurely dentate when sterile; stalks not articulate. Sori 1-5 along the base of the distal margins, 1(-2) per lobe; soral flaps reniform, lunate to sublunate, usually at the base of a shallow sinus (notch) on the pinnule margin. Spores 64 per sporangium, with largest diameter (34.6-)41.1(-53.6) microns.

Similar Taxa

Distinguished from the other New Zealand Adiantum by the more or less oblong, generally broader than long, undivided, ultimate segments (pinnules) attached to the stalk at one corner, reflexed reniform indusia set at the base of a small notch in the pinnule margin (this notch set only at the point of attachment of the indusia). Most often confused with Adiantum raddianum a naturalised species which differs by the ultimate segments divided into 2 or more distinct lobes, these generally longer than broad.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Easily grown and once established very persistent (to the point of being almost weedy). Despite its range of habitat preferences in the wild this species does best in a rich, well drained but damp soil planted in partial shade.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 120

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 (Updated 4 May 2011). Description adapted from Bostock (1998).

References and further reading

Bostock, P.D. 1998: Adiantaceae. Flora of Australia 48: 248-263.

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 7 Nov 2016