Asplenium bulbiferum subsp. gracillimum (Colenso) Brownsey

Mother Spleenwort

New Zealand J. Bot. 15: 60 (1977) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Native

Rhizome short, thick, covered with ovate-lanceolate, dark brown, translucent scales. Fronds tufted, erect to spreading, mostly 20–120 cm long, usually large and drooping. Stipe shorter than lamina, stout, grooved and green above, dark to almost black on lower surface; scales at base of stipe similar to rhizome scales but with long-tapering tips; scales along stipe, rachises and veins smaller, with broad triangular bases. Lamina ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 2–3-pinnate, often finely divided, pale to dark green, thin-textured (but not membranous); primary rachis with broad central rib between narrow grooves, thickened basal edges of pinnae decurrent along outer edges of groove. Bulbils (which form new plantlets) frequently present on upper surface of lamina, towards tips of pinnae, preceded by a group of dark brown scales on veinlet. Pinnae shortly stalked or sessile, ovate-oblong, often with tapering tips; pinnules elliptic-lanceolate, sessile or with short coarse stalks, obovate to triangular, 4–20 cm long, entire or with shallow lobes, outer margins convex; veins obscure except for raised midveins. Sori short, oblong, submarginal along pinnules or lobes; indusium oblong, firm, membranous.

CVU, EGL, EGU, GipP, Glep, GGr, HFE, HNF, HSF, MonT, NIS, OtP, OtR, SnM, Strz, VAlp, VVP, WPro. Also SA, Qld, NSW, Tas. (including Bass Strait islands). New Zealand. Usually found in gullies of rainforest, on logs or tree-fern trunks, among rocks, or near streams and waterfalls.

All Victorian material appears to belong to subsp. gracillimum, differing from subsp. bulbiferum in having smaller fronds, fewer bulbils, larger spores, and stipe scales with long-tapering tips. In New Zealand, subsp. gracillimum grows in drier habitats than subsp. bulbiferum (Brownsey 1977). The bulbils, when present, are a distinctive feature of this species and may develop into quite large plants (up to 7 cm long) before rooting and growing independently. Asplenium bulbiferum reportedly hybridizes with A. appendiculatum, A. obtusatum and possibly A. flaccidum.

Plants commonly cultivated in Australia under the name Asplenium bulbiferum are Asplenium x lucrosum Perrie & Brownsey, which is a sterile hybrid between Asplenium bulbiferum subsp. bulbiferum and Norfolk Island Asplenium dimorphum (Perrie et al. 2005). Asplenium x lucrosum has aborted spores and is perpetuated by bulbils.

Source: Entwisle, T.J. (1994). Ferns and allied plants (Psilophyta, Lycopodiophyta, Polypodiophyta). In: Walsh, N.G.; Entwisle, T.J. (eds), Flora of Victoria Vol. 2, Ferns and Allied Plants, Conifers and Monocotyledons. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
Updated by: Daniel Ohlsen, 2016-10-14
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Distribution map


Source: AVH (2014). Australia's Virtual Herbarium, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, <>. Find Asplenium bulbiferum subsp. gracillimum in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Asplenium bulbiferum subsp. gracillimum in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Glenelg Plain present native
Victorian Volcanic Plain present native
Gippsland Plain present native
Otway Plain present native
Central Victorian Uplands present native
Greater Grampians present native
Northern Inland Slopes present native
East Gippsland Lowlands present native
East Gippsland Uplands present native
Wilsons Promontory present native
Highlands-Southern Fall present native
Highlands-Northern Fall present native
Otway Ranges present native
Strzelecki Ranges present native
Monaro Tablelands present native
Highlands-Far East present native
Victorian Alps present native
Snowy Mountains present native

State distribution

Distribution map
South Australia
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory