Polystichum vestitum


Polystichum: Many rows (of sori); from the Greek polus and stikhos; parallel rows of spore cases
vestitum: clothed (with chaffy scales); from the Latin vestire; dense cover of scales on its leaf stalks

Common Name(s)

punui, prickly shield fern

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


Polystichum vestitum (G. Forst.) C. Presl



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



Polystichum aculeatum var. perelegans (Colenso) Domin; Polystichum venustum Hombr.; Aspidium aculeatum var. vestitum (G.Forst.) Hook. ex Hook.f.; Polystichum aculeatum var. vestitum (G.Forst.) Domin; Aspidium waikarense Colenso; Polypodium vestitum G.Forst.; Polystichum perelegans (Colenso) C.Chr.; Aspidium pulcherrimum Colenso; spidium venustum (Hombr.) Hook.f.; Aspidium vestitum (G.Forst.) Sw.; Aspidium aculeatum sensu F.Muell.; Aspidium perelegans Colenso; Aspidium proliferum sensu A.Rich.


Endemic. New Zealand: North, South, Stewart, Chatham, Snares, Antipodes, Campbell, Auckland, Macquarie Islands. In the North Island scarce north of Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula.


Coastal to alpine. In the northern part of its range P. vestitum is confined to montane regions or cold ('temperature inversion') situations, further south it progressively extends to lower altitudes; in the South Island it ranges from coastal to alpine regions. Polystichum vestitum is a species of exposed habitats, such as forest margins, gulley floors and tussock grasslands, but it also commonly extends into forest in colder, wetter parts of New Zealand.


Rhizome erect, sometimes forming a trunk up to 0.9 m tall. Stipe 90–410 mm long. Stipe and rachis densely clothed with scales of diverse form. Larger rachis scales usually ovate-lanceolate (those from the mid rachis 340–1620 mm at their mid length) to lanceolate-acicular (Chatham Islands and these from the mid rachis 180–780 mm at their mid length); usually bicolorous, with an obvious dark brown centre surrounded on all sides by pale brown margins, but dark centre sometimes much reduced (Chatham Islands, Subantarctic Islands and islands around Stewart Island especially) such that the rachis scales are uniformly pale brown; apex usually long and tapering; usually without marginal projections except for plants from the Chatham Islands, in which they may be very well developed; usually underlain by pale bristle-like scales. Lamina 0.23–2.0 m, long, 90–350(–480) mm; narrowly elliptic to narrowly oblong; bipinnate; adaxially usually dark green (sometimes purple-green), abaxially paler. Primary pinnae in 20–62 pairs, oblong. Secondary pinnae all stalked except those towards the apex of primary pinnae; with sharply pointed apex and prominent marginal teeth and/or crenulations. Sori round. Indusia peltate, ± flat, ± round; with entire although sometimes undulate and/or scalloped margins; central dark area usually insignificant (< 10% surface area, and usually < 5%).

Similar Taxa

Perrie et al. (2003) note that Polystichum vestitum can generally be distinguished from the other native New Zealand species of Polystichum by: the presence of indusia, which are more or less flat and have a rather small dark centre; secondary pinnae which are all stalked except for those near the apices of the primary pinnae; relatively long and narrow fronds, with parallel sides; scales on the stipe and rachis which are large, ovate-lanceolate, with a prominent dark brown centre completely surrounded by a pale brown margin, and with few, if any, marginal projections. They further note that some plants from the Chatham Islands have wider fronds (relatively longer primary pinnae in particular), and scales that are more acicular-lanceolate, uniformly pale brown, and with many prominent marginal projections. Nevertheless, with their generally larger size, larger numbers of stalked secondary pinnae, indusia with relatively small dark centres, and smaller spores, these plants are unlikely to be confused with P. neozelandicum, the only other superficially similar member of the genus on the Chatham Islands (see de Lange et al. 2011). Similarly, some plants of P. vestitum from islands around Stewart Island and the Subantarctic (particularly, the Snares and Auckland Islands) have uniformly pale brown scales and wider frond (relatively longer primary pinnae in particular). These can be readily distinguished from the only other Polystichum of those islands, P. neozelandicum subsp. zerophyllum and P. cystostegia, by their more or less flat indusia with rather small dark centres, larger number of stalked secondary pinnae, scales with few, if any, marginal projections, and smaller spores (Perrie et al. 2003).


Not Applicable - Spore Producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not Applicable - Spore Producing

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh spores and transplants. However, often slow to establish. Does best in a shaded site planted within a deep, free draining humus-enriched fertile soil.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 164

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family



Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (13 November 2012). Description adapted from Perrie et al. (2003).

References and further reading

de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Rolfe, J.R. 2011: Checklist of vascular plants recorded from the Chatham Island Islands. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 57pp.

Perrie, L.R.; Brownsey, P.J.; Lockhart, P.J.; Large, M.F. 2003B: Morphological and genetic diversity in the New Zealand fern Polystichum vestitum (Dryopteridaceae), with special reference to the Chatham Islands. New Zealand Journal of Botany 41: 581-602.

This page last updated on 11 Aug 2014