Hymenophyllum rufescens


Hymenophyllum: Membranous leaf, from the Greek humen and phullon

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 rufescens Kirk



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 rufescens (Kirk) Copel.


Endemic. New Zealand. North, South and Stewart Islands. From Te Moehau and Mt Pirongia south by often rather uncommon.


Lowland to subalpine. Strictly montane to subalpine in the North Island but descending to almost sea level in the western South Island. Usually a low epiphyte on tree trunks where it is commonly found in tree root caves or on overhanging tree roots. Also in holes on rotting logs, or on damp rock faces, overhangs or amongst boulders. Occasionally sympatric with H. flabellatum with which it appears to hybridise.


Terrestrial or low epiphytic fern forming diffuse creeping patches. Rhizomes long-creeping, thin, rather brittle. Fronds somewhat reddish yellow-green to red-green or dark red-green. Stipes 10-800 mm long, thin, brittle, not winged, bearing long, pale red-brown to brown unbranched hairs; rachises very narrowly winged in upper portion. Laminae 10-50 × 1-50 mm, deltoid, 1(-2)-pinnate, adaxially and abaxially bearing long pale red-brown, brown or reddish white curly hairs (these increasing in density toward laminae base and rachis). Pinnae deltoid-flabellate, flabellate, margins smooth. Sori terminating ultimate segments, slightly sunk in lamina, several on each primary pinna. Indusial flaps entire or minutely toothed.

Similar Taxa

Allied to Hymenophyllum flabellatum from which it differs by its smaller size, and strongly deltoid fronds whose surfaces are covered in curly usually reddish hairs. The stipes of H. rufescens are generally as long as or longer than the frond laminae. Intermediates between H. rufescens and H. flabellatum occur and these could be hybrids.



Flower Colours

No Flowers



Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not be removed from the wild


Not Threatened but not that common and biologically sparse so probably worthy of listing as "At Risk/Naturally Uncommon"

Chromosome No.

2n = 44

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 (20 April 2011). 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

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