Ophioglossum coriaceum


Ophioglossum: snake's tongue; from the Greek ophis and glossa; appearance of the fertile leaf
coriaceum: leathery; from the Latin corium; texture of the leaves

Common Name(s)

adder's tongue

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


Ophioglossum coriaceum A.Cunn.



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



Ophioglossum lusitanicum subp. coriaceum (A.Cunn.) R.T.Clausen; Ophioglossum elongatum R.Cunn. ex A.Cunn.; Ophioglossum pedunculosum sensu Cheeseman


Indigenous. New Zealand: Kermadec (Raoul Island), North, South, Stewart, Chatham Islands. Also Australia and South America (in Australia plants are referred to O. lustanicum L. which has a wider distribution though North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia)


Coastal to alpine. Throughout in mostly open or sparsely vegetated habitats including sand swales and dunes systems, grassland, forest clearings, lake, pond and river margins, peat bogs, fell field, river flats, tuft associations and occasionally as a low epiphyte.


Rhizome erect, cylindrical' roots orange-brown, fleshy, spreading; horizontal ones producing vegetative buds often resulting in large colonies. Fronds 1-2(-4). Common stipe (usually ill-defined) 5-15 mm long. Sterile lamina 8-30(-90) mm long, 4-20 mm wide, fleshy, green to yellow-green, elliptic, ovate, obovate to rhomboid (rarely deltoid), acute or obtuse; base rounded, truncate, cuneate or gradually tapering into common stipe' venation single, mostly obscure, sometimes prominently reticulate; areole variable, usually as long as wide, rarely wider than long or elongated. Sporophore 5-140 mm long; fertile portion 3-20 mm long, with 4-15(-24) pairs of sporangiae; sterile tip of sporophore 0.8-1.5 mm long (rarely more).

Similar Taxa

Currently we follow Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000) in accepting the New Zealand plant as O. coriaceum (cf. Chinnock 1998). In New Zealand Ophioglossum coriaceum is most often confused with O. petiolatum. Both species in their typical states are easily distinguished, O. coriaceum is usually shorter (with sterile blades up to 90 mm long) and carrying fewer sporangia per sporophore (5-15 pairs) while O. petiolatum has a well defined petiole (common stipe), typical deltoid sterile lamina (up to 120 mm long by 50 mm wide), and a fertile lamina up to 200 mm long with the sporophore bearing 15-48 pairs of sporangia (see de Lange et al. 2010). However, numerous intermediates occur suggestive of hybridisation between both species. Also O. coriaceum is cytologically variable and there is little doubt more than one taxon exists under the current circumscription. Ophioglossum are taxonomically difficult and in this respect the New Zealand species are no different - there is urgent need for a comprehensive, world-wide revision using DNA-based techniques as main driver (see comments by de Lange & Rolfe 2010).



Flower Colours

No Flowers



Propagation Technique

Easily grown by the division of whole plants. Does best in a fertile soil kept permanently moist (but not saturated). Will tolerate full sun but does better in semi-shade. Intolerant of competition from taller faster growing plants and very vulnerable to slug and snail browsing. This species makes an interesting and unusual pot plant.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 240,700,700-720

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.



Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 21 March 2011. Description adapted from Chinnock (1998), Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000) and also based on herbarium specimens and measurements.

References and further reading

Brownsey, P.J.; Smith-Dodsworth, J.C. 2000: New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants. Auckland, David Bateman

Chinnock, R.J. 1998: Ophioglossaceae. Flora of Australia 48: 99-109.de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand, Christchurch, Canterbury University Press. 471pp.

de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R. 2010: New Zealand Indigenous Vascular Plant Checklist. Wellington, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. 164pp.

This page last updated on 10 Aug 2014