Phlegmariurus varius

Common Name(s)


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


Phlegmariurus varius (R.Br.) A.R.Field et Bostock



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

Lycophytes (clubmosses, selaginella, quillworts)


Urostachys varius (R.Br.) Herter ex Nessel; Lycopodium varium R.Br.; Lycopodium billardieri Spring; Lycopodium novae-zelandicum Colenso; Lycopodium varium var. alpinum R.Br.; Lycopodium varium var. umbrosum R.Br.; Lycopodium varium R.Br.; Lycopodium flagellaria sensu A.Rich.; Lycopodium phlegmaria sensu A.Cunn., Lycopodium novozealandicum Colenso; Huperzia varia (R. Br.) Trevis.


Indigenous. Kermadec (Raoul Island only), Three Kings, North, South, Stewart, Chatham, Antipodes, Campbell and Auckland Islands. Also Australia.


Coastal to subalpine. In forest (usually as an epiphyte), in scrub, often rupestral or in peat bogs


Terrestrial, lithophytic or epiphytic plants producing 1-many branches from near base. branches tufted, erect suberect if terrestrial or pendulous if epiphytic, branched 1-many times, 0.08-2.0 m long. Leaves spirally arranged, spreading, angled at 60-90 degrees to axis, linear-lanceolate, acute to subacute, 9-18 mm long, 1-3 mm wide, deep green to yellow-green, sometimes tinged orange; texture and thickness variable; margins entire, often thickened. Transition from sterile to sporogenous zone gradual or abrupt. Sporogenous zone 40-180 mm long, usually 3.5-4.5 mm diameter usually distinct from sterile leaves but sometimes scarcely discernible. Sporophylls variable; linear-lanceolate, spreading, shorter than sterile leaves, to 10 mm long, smaller towards apex; or ovate triangular, keeled, in 4-rows, imbricate, appressed, 2.0-2.5 mm long, 1.5-2.0 mm wide. Sporangia occupying one-tenth to the entire length of the sporophyll. Description adapted from Chinnock (1998) and Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000).

Similar Taxa

Epiphytic forms are easily distinguished from all other New Zealand representatives of the family. However, sterile, terrestrial forms can only be reliably distinguished from Huperzia australiana by the lack of bulbils and by the upper branch tips which tend or curl downwards rather than stay erect.



Flower Colours

No Flowers



Propagation Technique

Can be grown from rooted pieces. These should be planted in a moist, free draining medium like orchid mix. Epiphytic forms make a spectacular hanging basket plant. Plants do best in partially shade and should never be allowed to dry out. Growth is usually rather slow.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = c.256

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Taxonomic Notes

Field & Bostock (2013) have revived the genus Phlegmariurus, a genus which applies to one of the New Zealand plants previously referred to Huperzia, H. varia - which is now known as Phlegmariurus varius. As currently circumscribed the New Zealand concept of Phlegmariurus varius includes a range of distinctive races some of which have valid names in Lycopodium. Some of these races need further critical taxonomic investigation, especially as they retain their growth habits in cultivation, under uniform conditions.


Factsheet prepared by P.J. de Lange 16 March 2011. Description adapted from Chinnock (1998) and Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000).

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: Lycopodiaceae. Flora of Australia 48: 66-85.

Field, A.R.; Bostock, P.D. 2013: New and existing combinations in Palaeotropical Phlegmariurus (Lycopodiaceae) and lectotypification of the type species Phlegmariurus phlegmaria (L.) T.Sen & U.Sen. PhytoKeys 20: 33–51 (2013) doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.20.4007

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

This page last updated on 10 Apr 2015