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.
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.