histiopteris, water fern, mātātā, bat’s wing fern
Pteris incisa Thunb.; Pteris montana Colenso; Pteris vespertilionis Labill.; Phegopteris incisa (Thunb.) Keyserl.; Pteris alpina Field; Pteris brunoniana Endl.; Histiopteris vespertilionis (Labill.) J.Sm.; Litobrochia incisa (Thunb.) C.Presl; Litobrochia vespertilionis (Labill.) C.Presl
Vascular – Native
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.
2n = 192, 208
Current conservation status
The threat classification status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | Not Threatened | Qualifiers: SO
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | Not Threatened
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Indigenous. New Zealand: Also eastern and south-eastern Australia and Tasmania, Lord Howe and Norfolk and throughout the tropics and southern temperate regions.
Coastal to subalpine. Usually in open sites. Histiopteris is typically a primary colonizer of disturbed ground such as in clearings caused by tree falls, or in forest that has been seriously damaged by browsing animals. It is often common in pine forest, on roadside cuttings, and sometimes may be found in urban areas.
Wetland plant indicator status rating
Information derived from the revised national wetland plant list prepared to assist councils in delineating and monitoring wetlands (Clarkson et al., 2021 Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research Contract Report LC3975 for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council). The national plant list categorises plants by the extent to which they are found in wetlands and not ‘drylands’. The indicator status ratings are OBL (obligate wetland), FACW (facultative wetland), FAC (facultative), FACU (facultative upland), and UPL (obligate upland).
Commonly occurs as either a hydrophyte or non-hydrophyte (non-wetlands).
Terrestrial often summer green fern (deciduous in cooler areas). Rhizomes long-creeping, scaly. Stipe and rachis chestnut-brown at base otherwise mostly yellow-brown (sometimes glaucescent), glabrous except for basal scales, glossy; stipe 0.15-1.2 m long, 5-10 mm diameter. Lamina 0.3-2.3 × 0.15-1.2 m, yellow-green, glaucescent or glaucous (irrespective distinctly glaucous when young), glabrous, ovate, 3-4-pinnate at base. Pinnae sessile, basal pinnules reduced, stipuliform; veins reticulate. Primary pinnae in opposite pairs; longest 130-600 × 70-350 mm, arising at narrow angles, sessile. Secondary pinnae opposite, arising at wide angles; longest 40-200 × 20-90 mm, with basal pair sometimes reduced to stipules. Tertiary pinnae opposite; longest 10-45 × 6-15 mm, sometimes divided into quaternary pinnae. Ultimate pinnules adnate to midribs; margins entire or crenate; apices obtuse. Sori ± continuous around margins, borne on connecting vein, bearing paraphyses; indusia absent, sori protected by reflexed membranous lamina margin. Spores pale, tuberculate.
Easily recognised by the glabrous, yellow-green glaucescent or glaucous fronds (always glaucous when emergent), pinnae with reticulate venation, by the continuous marginal sori and the absence of an indusia, an dby the basal pair of secondary pinnae on the primary pinnae overlapping the rachis.
None (spore bearing)
None (spore bearing)
Minute spores are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).
Very easily grown from fresh spores and young plants. Inclined to be weedy. Does best in an open site planted in a deep, fertile, moist soil.
histiopteris: Webbed fern; from the greek histion and pteris; netted veins of the leaves
incisa: Incised or cut in two; from the Latin incidere; incised leaf
Fact Sheet Prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 11 January 2011. Description adapted from Brownsey (1998) and Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000)
References and further reading
Brownsey, P.J. 1998: Dennstaedtiaceae: Flora of Australia 48: 214-228.
Brownsey, P.J.; Smith-Dodsworth, J.C. 2000: New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants. Auckland, David Bateman
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
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Histiopteris incisa Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/histiopteris-incisa/ (Date website was queried)