November 24, 2017

A Princely Fern

Plants from Middle Earth

Garden Maine’s New Zealand Extravaganza – Celebrating a Completely Unexpected Journey

Pamela Rogers Photo | Leptopteris superba - Prince of Wales Feathers fern

Pamela Rogers Photo | Leptopteris superba – Prince of Wales Feathers fern

Editor’s Note: We have a royal flush on The Daily Plant, courtesy of Pamela Rogers of New Zealand. In honor of the royal premiere today in Great Britain of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,’ Garden Maine is featuring two “royal” plants. Here is the first, taken at Wellington Botanic Gardens. The second plant can be read here. The story of how this came about with Pamela can be read here.

The Prince of Wales feather fern
Pamela Rogers Photo | Wellington Botanic Gardens' sign for Leptopteris superba - Prince of Wales Feathers fern

Pamela Rogers Photo | Wellington Botanic Gardens’ sign for Leptopteris superba – Prince of Wales Feathers fern

• By Pamela Rogers •

Leptopteris superba (Osmundaceace), also known as the crape fern, is one of two native species of the genus (the other is L. hymenphylloides).

With filmy fronds, Leptopteris resemble the true filmy ferns although they are not, in fact, closely related. With blades up to 1 metre (3 feet) long, the fronds are larger than filmy ferns, and sprongia are underneath, not on margins. Fronds are thinner and translucent, attached to slender trunks up to 1m (3 feet) in height.

The Prince of Wales feathers fern has blades that taper at both ends, and its ultimate segments turn up at right angles to the rest of the frond. As a result, the fronds have a very attractive fluffy texture.

Both species are found in dark and moist forest throughout the country, though the Prince of Wales feather fern is rare in Northland, which lies at the top of the North Island. This plant requires cool temperatures and constant high humidity so it is abundant on the west coast of the South Island – which has some of the highest rainfall in New Zealand – and at high altitudes elsewhere. It tends to be confined to valley floors near streams; at such sites the two species often hybridise.

In Maori, the fern is known as the heruheru (HERE-roo-HERE-roo), the ngutukakariki (noo-TOO-KAAH-kaah-REE-kee) and the ngutungutu kiwi (noo-TOO-nuu-TOO KEE-wee). The last name is probably because its soft fronds bear some resemblance to the feathers of the kiwi both in touch and shape.

Other species of the Leptoteris can be found in New Caledonia and New Guinea.

The information was sourced (with my additions) from Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest by John Dawson and Rob Lucas (Auckland, 2004)
http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/nz-ferns/prince-of-wales-fern-leptopteris-superba.html

Pamela Rogers Photo | One of the Wellington Botanic Gardens plant sculptures, which are called the Green Islands

Pamela Rogers Photo | One of the Wellington Botanic Gardens plant sculptures, which are called the Green Islands

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Photographs kindly provided by Pamela Rogers of the Kapiti Coast, in December 2012. For a bit more about Pamela, click to read here.

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“New Zealand’s flora is described as being unique due to our long isolation many thousands of years ago. We have some 2,357 different plant species and approximately 80% of them are endemic, meaning they don’t occur anywhere else in the world.”

– From the Auckland Botanic Gardens website

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How did all this come about? You can read about how Janine Pineo of Garden Maine found Anna Paton, more than 9,000 miles away, as the crow flies. If a crow could fly 9,000 miles like that. Click here for that story.