Asplenium gracillimum


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.
gracillimum: Slender or most graceful; from the Latin gracilis

Common Name(s)

hen & chicken 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


Asplenium gracillimum Colenso



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 bulbiferum subsp. gracillimum (Colenso) Brownsey


Indigenous. New Zealand, North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands. Also in Australia


Coastal to subalpine. Usually in lowland forest where it is a common species of the ground-layer, especially in high rainfall areas. Commonly associated with riparian forest, and as a species of base-rich substrates but also typical of colluvium and stream side banks. It is commonly sympatric with A. bulbiferum. Asplenium gracillimum appears to have a higher altitudinal range than A. bulbiferum and is also more common in drier eastern forests than A. bulbiferum. Chatham Island populations of A. gracillimum are frequently bulbiferous.


Rhizome short, stout, erect, bearing ovate scales up to 15 × 5 mm. Stipes 50-300 mm long, brown on underside, green above, stout, covered in small brown ovate scales with apices drawn into long filiform projections. Laminae lanceolate to elliptic, 0.15-1.20 m, 70-300 mm, bi- to tripinnate, sometimes bearing bulbils. Raches dark green to blue-green, rarely bulbiferous, scaly, prominently grooved. Pinnae 15-30 (or more) pairs, ovate to narrowly ovate, acuminate, shortly stalked, 30-200 × 10-50 mm, scaly on underside, basal pair pointing downwards when fresh. Secondary pinnae sessile or shortly stalked, very narrowly elliptic to ovate or elliptic, obtuse, deeply serrate or sometimes almost pinnate, decreasing in size from base to apex, basal acroscopic pinnule often enlarged (up to 40 × 10 mm). Ultimate pinnules narrowly oblong, ± entire to crenate-serrate, up to 10 mm long. Sori numerous, broad, submarginal, 2-4 mm long.

Similar Taxa

Asplenium gracillimum is only ever likely to be confused with the closely related A. bulbiferum G.Forst. From that species it is distinguished by its infrequently bulbiferous, dark green to blue-green fronds, and stipe scales which have long filiform apices. Asplenium gracillimum is an octoploid (2n = 288) and A. bulbiferum tetraploid (2n = 144), so hybrids between these two species are sterile.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Easily grown, and popular in cultivation. However, most plants sold as this species are the sterile hybrid A. xlucrosum Perrie et Brownsey (A. bulbliferum x A. dimorphum Kunze). An excellent pot plant but as with all asplenia prone to infestations of scale and mealy bugs.


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 14 Aug 2014