Hymenophyllum flabellatum


Hymenophyllum: Membranous leaf, from the Greek humen and phullon
flabellatum: fan shaped; from the Latin flabellum; shape of the leaves

Common Name(s)

filmy 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


Hymenophyllum flabellatum Labill.



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



Mecodium flabellatum (Labill.) Copel.; Hymenophyllum nitens R.Br.


Indigenous. Kermadec, North, South (except eastern part of South Island), Stewart, Chatham, Auckland and Antipodes Islands. Also Australia (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania); Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti.


Coastal to montane forest. Often epiphytic, especially on tree fern trunks, but also on shaded or sheltered, damp rocks, cliff faces, and overhanging banks


Rhizome long creeping, wiry, branched, 0.3-0.8 mm diameter, tan-coloured, with opaque villous hairs but tomentose at the stipe junction. Fronds 20-80 mm long, peundulous, rarely suberect. Stipe wiry, flexuose, 8-20 mm long, unwinged, with scattered pale-white or yellow hairs extending along main rachis. Lamina yellow-green, very variable in size and shape, oblong-linear to ovate-lanceolate (dwarfed fronds often broadly deltoid to round), 20-270 × 10-65 mm; primary division pinnate in the lower part, deeply pinnatifid above; pinnae or primary laminal segments oblique, 1-2-pinnatifid, flabellate, ovate or rhombic. Ultimate segments linear, 0.5-2.2 mm wide, glabrous to glabrescent; margins entire, 1-2-cells thick, apex obtuse, occasionally emarginate. Sori numerous; involucre ovate to rotund, bilabiate to below the middle. 0.5-2.0 × 0.5-2.0 mm; base broadly and shallowly cuneate; margins entire; receptacle included or slightly exserted. Description adapted from Bostock & Spokes (1998) and Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000).

Similar Taxa

Only likely to be confused with the montane to subalpine, much less common endemic Hymenophyllum rufescens, which is a much smaller plant (up to 50 mm long), with deltoid fronds whose pinnae are covered in reddish, long, flexuose hairs. Hymenophyllum flabellatum and H., rufescens are rarely found growing together, occasional intermediates have been found, some of which are suggestive that both species may at times hybridise.


Not applicable - spore producing

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Not applicable - spore producing

Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not be removed from the wild.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 72

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

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

Where to Buy

Not commercially available


Fact Sheet Prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (July 2009). Description adapted from Bostock & Spokes (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

Bostock, P.D.; Spokes, T.M. 1998: Hymenophyllaceae: Flora of Australia 48: 116-148.

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 30 May 2015