Trichomanes colensoi


colensoi: Named after William Colenso (7 November 1811 - 10 February 1899) who was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Common Name(s)

Bristle fern

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

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 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - Sp
2009 - DP


Trichomanes colensoi Hook.f.



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



Vandenboschia colensoi (Hook. f.) Copel., Polyphlebium colensoi (Hook.f.) Ebihara et K.Iwats.


Endemic. North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands. From Mt Karioi (Western Waikato) and Te Moehau (Coromandel Peninsula) south. Known from only one site on Rekohu (Chatham Island) in the Chatham Islands group.


An uncommon fern that most commonly occurs on wet rock faces, usually within overhangs or beside streams in dark, wet, lowland to montane forest. It may also be found as a low epiphyte in cloud forest, or within holes amongst exposed roots, or on trees rooted over boulder falls. Often associated with Trichomanes strictum and Hymenophyllum australis.


Colony forming, extensively rhizomatous fern of dark recesses, rock faces and overhangs usually near to or partially immersed in water. Rhizomes long creeping. Stipes 5-30 mm long. Stipe and rachises not winged, dark black, rather wiry and pliant. Frond lamina 30-120 x 10-30 mm, dark green (rarely bright green), narrowly elliptic, 2-3-pinnate. Primary pinnae widely spaced, stalked, finely divided; ultimate segments linear, deeply toothed, with the veins forking 1-2 times per segment. Sori distinctly stalked, usually solitary (sometimes paired) at bases of primary pinnae. Indusia tubular, widened at mouth.

Similar Taxa

Could possibly be confused with Trichomanes endlicherianum which often grows in similar habitats and has a superficially similar frond shape and morphological. However, T. colensoi differs from that species by the absence of a rachis wing, more deeply divided fronds and distinctly stalked indusia.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Should not be removed from the wild


Not threatened. A naturally uncommon, biologically sparse species which may be abundant in suitable habitats and then absent from other apparently suitable sites nearby.

Chromosome No.

2n = 72

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.


Taxonomic Notes

Previously NZPCN had followed Ebihara et al. (2006) in recognising Abrodictyum as distinct from Trichomanes - recently Brownsey & Perrie (2016) have rejected this idea favouring a return to the past broad circumscription of Trichomanes used in New Zealand.


Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (July 2007). Description adapted from 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

Brownsey, P.J. & Perrie, L.R. 2016: Hymenophyllaceae. In: Breitwieser, I.; Heenan, P.B.; Wilton, A.D.
Flora of New Zealand - Ferns and Lycophytes. Fascicle 15. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln.

Ebihara, A.; Dubuisson, J-Y.; Iwatsuki, K.; Hennequin, S.; Ito, M. 2006: A taxonomic revision of the Hymenophyllaceae. Blumea 51: 2-57

This page last updated on 9 Apr 2016