Giant maidenhair

February 7, 2015

The giant maidenhair (Adiantum formosum) is an intriguing example of a native plant that, despite growing well here, is restricted to a limited area in the wild. Although it has been historically recorded from a small number of other populations (in Northland), it is now only found in the vicinity of the Manawatu Gorge.

This slow-growing fern also grows in eastern parts of Australia, where it is abundant. We have a particular interest in this species, as it is a very attractive garden plant that produces the unusual effect of a canopy of delicate foliage hovering above its tall (up to 1m), dark stems.

On my return from work in the Nelson region, I stopped near the Manawatu Gorge on a rainy morning, to see Adiantum formosum in the wild for the first time. The carpets of A. formosum that stretched out in the understorey gave an impression of how much potential this species has for cultivation; especially where it is mass planted in a woodland setting like this.