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Ferns and fern allies of Norfolk Island

[ see also: Conservation Status of Norfolk Island Ferns ]

47 taxa of ferns and their allies are known to occur on Norfolk Island. Four, possibly five are introduced; of these two as weeds, the remainder as garden plants that may be naturalized. A number of the more striking native species are grown in local gardens.

There are a further 13 species that have been recorded from the island in the past, but are excluded from the current flora for a variety of reasons, including the absence of supporting specimens, misidentification of specimens, misinterpretation of species, and suspect or erroneous specimen label data.

The total species count is relatively small for a locality with suitable habitat at this latitude in this geopgraphic region and reflects the fact the the available land area is only c. 5 x 8 km. Based on consideration of habitat and the floras of surrounding geopgraphic region, perhaps as many as an additional 6 genera and 18 species might reasonably be expected, but thorough searching over more than one and a half centuries has not found them. Our knowledge of today's pteridophyte flora of Norfolk Island can be considered good, and for all intents and purposes, complete.

Of the taxa known from Norfolk Island, 7 (16% of the flora) are endemic and are known from nowhere else; a single species is known from only Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands. There are 30 taxa shared with Australia, 24 with New Zealand, 18 each with Lord Howe Island and New Caledonia, and 21 with various islands in the South Pacific. 25 Norfolk Island species (including 7 endemics) are not on Lord Howe Island and 40 Lord Howe Island species (including 22 endemics) are not on Norfolk Island. Seven taxa are widespread and are known from all these regions.

The pteridophytes of Norfolk Island

Aus = Australia; NI = Norfolk Island; LHI = Lord Howe Island; NC = New Caledonia; NZ = New Zealand; Pac = South Pacific

Family Species Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Notes
Lycopodiaceae Lycopodiella cernua Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Native; possible recent introduction
Psilotaceae Psilotum nudum Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Native; occasional to common
Psilotaceae Tmesipteris norfolkensis NI Endemic; scattered on tree ferns
Selaginellaceae Selaginella kraussiana Aus NI NZ Garden escape, weed
Adiantaceae Adiantum diaphanum Aus NI NZ Pac Native; common
Adiantaceae Adiantum pubescens NI LHI NZ Native; common
Adiantaceae Cheilanathes distans Aus NI LHI NC NZ Native; frequent
Adiantaceae Cheilanathes sieberi Aus NI LHI Native; rare
Aspleniaceae Asplenium australasicum
f. australasicum
Aus NI LHI NC Pac Native; becoming uncommon
Aspleniaceae Asplenium australasicum
f. robinsonii
Aus NI LHI Known only in cultivation
Aspleniaceae Asplenium difforme Aus NI Native; occasional to fairly common
Aspleniaceae Asplenium dimorphum NI Endemic; quite common
Aspleniaceae Asplenium polyodon Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Native; reasonably common
Athyriaceae Deparia petersenii
subsp. congrua
Aus NI NC NZ Pac Native; rare
Athyriaceae Diplazium assimile Aus NI Native; frequent
Athyriaceae Diplazium australe Aus NI NZ Native; uncommon
Azollaceae Azolla pinnata Aus NI NC NZ Pac Introduced; water weed
Blechnaceae Blechnum norfolkianum NI NZ Pac Native; not common
Blechnaceae Doodia media Aus NI NC Native; common
Cyatheaceae Cyathea australis
subsp. norfolkensis
NI Endemic; not common
Cyatheaceae Cyathea brownii NI Endemic; common
Dennstaedtiaceae Histiopteris incisa Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Native; widespread
Dennstaedtiaceae Hypolepis dicksonioides NI NZ Pac Native; rare
Dennstaedtiaceae Hypolepis tenuifolia Aus NI NC Pac Native; rare
Dennstaedtiaceae Pteridium esculentum Aus NI NC NZ Pac Native; common
Dryopteridaceae Arachniodes aristata Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Native; very common
Dryopteridaceae Lastreopsis calantha NI Endemic; fairly common
Gleicheniaceae Dicranopteris linearis Aus NI NC NZ Pac Introduced?
Hymenophyllaceae Cephalomanes bauerianum NI LHI Native; endemic to NI, LHI
Hymenophyllaceae Crepidomanes endlicherianum NI NZ Native
Hymenophyllaceae Crepidomanes saxifragoides Aus NI NC Pac Native; localized
Marratiaceae Marattia salicina NI NZ Native; vulnerable
Oleandraceae Nephrolepis cordifolia Aus NI LHI NC Nz Pac Native; localized
Oleandraceae Arthropteris tenella Aus NI LHI NZ Native; common
Ophioglossaceae Ophioglossum petiolatum Aus NI LHI NC NZ Native
Polypodiaceae Microsorum pustulatum
subsp. pustulatum
Aus NI NZ Native; locally abundant
Polypodiaceae Platycerium bifurcatum
var. bifurcatum
Aus NI LHI Introduced, cultivated ornamental
Polypodiaceae Pyrrosia confluens Aus NI LHI NC Pac Native; common
Pteridaceae Pteris kingiana NI Endemic; locally common
Pteridaceae Pteris tremula Aus NI LHI NZ Pac Native; locally common
Pteridaceae Pteris vittata Aus NI ?NZ Pac Most likely introduced; naturalized
Pteridaceae Pteris zahlbruchneriana NI Endemic
Salviniaceae Salvinia molesta Aus NI NZ Pac Introduced; water weed
Thelypteridaceae Christella dentata Aus NI LHI NC NZ Pac Native; fairly common
Thelypteridaceae Christella parasitica Aus NI LHI NC Pac Native; uncommon
Thelypteridaceae Macrothelypteris torresiana Aus NI Pac Native; rare
Vittariaceae Vittaria elongata Aus NI NC Pac Native; not common
Doubtful records
Lycopodiaceae Lycopodium deuterodensum Aus No known specimens
Adiantaceae Adiantum fulvum Based on mislabelled specimen
Adiantaceae Pellaea rotundifolia No known specimens
Aspleniaceae Asplenium oblongifolium NZ Based on a mislabelled specimen
Blechnaceae Blechnum discolor NZ Based on a misidentfication
Blechnaceae Doodia aspera Aus NI NZ Pac confirmation needed; no known specimens
Blechnaceae Doodia caudata Aus No known specimens
Davalliaceae Davallia solida
var. pyxidata
Aus NZ Based on a mislabelled specimen
Dennstaedtiaceae Microlepia speluncae Aus Based on mislabelled specimens
Dryopteridaceae Lastreopsis microsora Aus Based on misinterpretation
Dryopteridaceae Rumohra adiantiformis Aus NZ Based on a mislabelled specimen
Lindsaeaceae Lindsaea linearis Aus NC NZ No known specimens
Lindsaeaceae Lindsaea linearis Aus NC NZ No known specimens
Lygodiaceae Lygodium japonicum No known specimens

A brief summary of the pteridophyte flora

The composition of the Norfolk Island flora reflects its historical and geopgraphical relationships with surrounding regions, in particular, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and the islands of the Pacific, and relatively nearby LOrd Howe Island. It is basically a reduced subtropic oceanic flora with zero endemicity at the generic level but a somewhat surprising 16% at the species level, 7 out of a flora of 43. For comparison, Lord Howe Island also has 0% endemicity at the generic level and 38% endemicity at the species level, 22 of a flora of 58 taxa. Many of the endemic taxa are close vicariant relatives to more common species from neighbouring regions.

Norfolk Island endemic species

Regional endemic species (Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands)

Species in common between Norfold Island and Lord Howe Island

Norfolk Island species not on Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island species not on Norfolk Island

Widespread species

Introduced species

Species commonly grown in gardens

Species that might be expeced but are not there

Norfolk Island fern localities

After two and a quarter centuries of european inhabitation, the native vegetation of Norfolk Island has been irrevocably altered, intentionally with land clrearing for civil and domestic construction, earthworks and agriculture, and unintentionally with the introduction of weeds and feral animal pests. Estimates of remaining undisturbed land areas range from 2% to 5% and and island once forested and largely free of grass species is now dominated by pasture. Available fern habitats have contracted and many of the less hardy species are now restriced to scattered and small patches within the National Park and other reserves. Nevertheless, it is is possible to visit localities where ferns have been collected in the past and find many of the species.


Green, P.S. 1994. Pteridophyta. In Wilson, A.J.G. (ed.) Flora of Australia volume 49, Oceanic Islands 1. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Braggins, J. 1996. Report on the conservation status of Norfolk Island ferns. Unpublished report prepared for the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Norfolk Island. Auckland Uniservices Ltd, New Zealand.

McCarthy, P.M. (ed.) 1998. Flora of Australia volume 48, Ferns, Gymnosperns and Alied Groups. ABRS/CSIRO Publishing, Australia.

Updated December 1999 by Jim Croft ( )