Asplenium hookerianum var. colensoi


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.
hookerianum: Named after Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (born 1817) - a world famous botanist who travelled on the Antarctic expedition of 1839 under the command of Sir James Ross and wrote "Handbook of New Zealand Flora" published in 1864-67 describing many specimens sent to Kew by collectors. He died in 1911 and has a memorial stone at Westminster Abbey London.
colensoi: Named after William Colenso (7 November 1811 - 10 February 1899) who was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Common Name(s)

Colenso's spleenwort

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 hookerianum var. colensoi (Hook.f.) Moore



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 colensoi Hook.f.; Asplenium adiantoides var. colensoi Hook. f.; Asplenium richardii var. colensoi Hook.


Endemic. New Zealand, North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands.


Coastal to alpine. Usually on shaded clay banks or rocky outcrops in scrub and open forest, or on the ground in disturbed forest remnants.


Rhizome short, erect, bearing numerous brown, ovate, acuminate scales up to 10 × 2 mm. Stipes 20-100 mm long, pale brown below, green above, densely covered in small, subulate to narrowly ovate scales with filiform apices. Laminae lanceolate to rhombic, 40-250 × 10-150 mm, dark green, thin, bipinnate to tripinnate in well-grown specimens. Raches green, slender, and very scaly. Pinnae 5-15 pairs, very narrowly ovate, acuminate, long-stalked, 10-80 × 5-20 mm, basal pair pointing upwards when fresh. Pinnules stalked, 3-10 pairs, linear, crenate to deeply incised (or almost pinnate), 3-12 × 3-10 mm, tending to lie at 90° to plane of frond in well-grown specimens. Sori sub-marginal on narrow pinnules, remote from margins on broad segments, 1-3 mm long

Similar Taxa

Closely allied to A. hookerianum Colenso var. hookerianum from which it differs only by its much narrower, linear pinnules. This variety is always found in association with A. hookerianum var. hookeranum.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Easily grown, and an excellent pot plant. However, rather slow growing, and as with all asplenia prone to infestations of scale and mealy bugs.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 144

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Minute spores are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).


Asplenium hookerianum var. colensoi is not upheld by Brownsey (1977) who argues that it is merely a state of A. hookerianum var. hookerianum. For the time being the variety is maintained because despite that view many people regard it as distinct. Asplenium hookerianum var. colensoi may perhaps be better treated at the rank of forma.


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (6 June 2007). Description based on Brownsey (1977) supplemented with observations of fresh specimens and herbarium material.

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.

This page last updated on 31 Oct 2014