Flowering Fern in flower



Flowering Fern - Helminthostachys zealanica


Flowering Fern indeed. The common name of this primitive fern is confusing, ferns do not flower, however the spike that they produce is certainly quite flower-like.

This fern belongs to a monotypic (only the one member) Genus Helminthostachys, which is known to occur throughout South-east Asia. In Malaysia it is eaten as a vegetable.

The plant extends into North Australia from the Kimberley to the Daintree. I’ve generally seen this plant growing in fairly boggy places so it must prefer a bit of a wet patch.


Close-up of "Flowering" Spike

To be honest the first time I saw this plant in the wild I did a double take.

I saw it from a bit of a distance and was quite sure I was looking at a fern but couldn’t quite get my head around the bit that was sticking up.

The family,Ophioglossaceae, to which this plant belongs is quite small, having a mere 70 species in 4 Genera. Of these only about 10 occur in Australia within 3 Genera.

One of the other local members of the family is Ribbon Fern, Ophioglossum pendulum, which unlike the terrestrial Flowering Fern live as an epiphyte. The fronds, which are ribbon-like, can be up to 1 m long and tend to twist some and hang down.

Like the Flowering Fern they have an unusual spore producing appendage that develops out of the frond.


Spore spike of Ophioglossum pendulum - Ribbon Fern

2 responses to “Flowering Fern in flower

  1. Your comment that ferns do not have flowers. I beg your pardon but, I had two large ferns in my wildflower garden that had beautiful white flowers on them. I have pictures of them to prove it. They were about four feet high and very delicate looking, the flowers were white.

  2. Sorry Joy but I have to stand by my comment that ferns do not flower. They produce spore in a variety of structures but definitely no flowers. Sadly many plants are wrongly called ferns such as the Asparagus fern which of course is not a fern at all. Some cycads are also eroneously refered to as ferns and they are cone bearers. So perhaps you need to more closely look at your “fern with flowers” and i’m sure that you will see that it is something else altogether. Such is the problem with common names

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