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Microsorum scolopendria (Burm.f.) Copel.,

Fragrant fern, Mokimoki

(Mokimoki is also applied to a species of Doodia)

Derivation: Micro = small; sorum (from Latin sorus, from Greek soros, a heap) = A cluster of sporangia borne on the underside of a fern frond, or a reproductive structure in certain fungi and lichens; scolopendria=like a centipede

This species has been subject to extensive revision and name change.

In the fourth edition (1951) of Dobbie's New Zealand Ferns, Marguerite Crookes lists it as Microsorium (sic) pustulatum, (with Microsorium diversifolium the name assigned to Hound's Tongue Fern.) She notes Copeland's comment (see below).

Dobbie comments:

"A beautiful, graceful species, notwithstanding the unpleasant name with which it has been encumbered. To me it seems a miracle how these long sweeping fronds can be supported by so delicate a stem. Man, in comparison with Nature, appears but a clumsy architect.

Recently I came across one of those lovely pictures that only Nature can contrive. A fallen monarch of the forest lay prone upon the hillside, the unsightly ravages of age veiled under a cascade of the tender green fronds of this fern. It made me think hard things of the botanist who had cursed it with such a name."

Allan comments in the NZ Flora:

"Copeland (Gen. Fil. 1947, 196) considers the N.Z. spp. to "represent the most probable common ancestry of both sections," but refers them to Microsorium. After a careful discussion Pichi-Sermolli (Webbia 8, 1951, 222) places them in Phymatodes."

Phymatodes scandens was the name assigned to the species by Allan in the NZ Flora. Subsequently the correctness of the name Phymatodes was challenged and the genus was renamed Phymatosorus.

Subsequently, again, this genus was included within the genus Microsorum, and it is as Microsorum scandens (G. Forst.) Tindale that the species is listed in "New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants" (Brownsey and Smith-Dodsworth)

Most recently the species was determined to be identical to Microsorum scolopendria (Burm.f.) Copel. and the two were joined as M. scolopendria. (ref Bostock and Spoke, 1998)



Microsorum scandens (G.Forst.) Tindale; Amer. Fern Journ. 50: 241. t.20 (1960)

Polypodium scandens G.Forst., Fl. Ins. Austr. 81 (1786) non Labill. (1806);

Phymatodes scandens (G.Forst.) C.Presl, Tent. Pterid. 196 (1836);

Drynaria scandens (G.Forst.) Fée, Gen. Fil. 271 (1852);

Phymatosorus scandens (G.Forst.) Pic.Serm., Webbia 28: 459 (1973). T: Society Islands, [probably New Zealand], J.R. & G.Forster ; ?syn: BM (photo seen), K n.v. , fide M.D.Tindale, Contr. New South Wales Natl. Herb., Fl. Ser. 210: 42 (1961).

[Pleopeltis pustulata auct. non (G.Forst.) T.Moore: F.M.Bailey, Handb. Ferns Queensland 45, f. 36 (1874); A.T.Melvaine, Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales 61: 120 (1936)] 

[Polypodium pustulatum auct. non G.Forst.: K.Domin, Biblioth. Bot. 20(85): 178, fig. 40 (1913)] 

The genus is listed in the family Polypodiaceae in the online Australian Flora) but as far as I can tell is considered now part of Drynariaceae. It appears to have attracted major interest from taxonomists.

I have included a link below to the New Zealand Flora description

Next time I see this fern I shall smell it. According to descriptions, it has a noticeable smell of musk when green or recently pressed. Other reports suggest the smell is more like crushed insects. It has several forms, a rounded leaf on or near the ground, followed by a single long leaf, visible at the bottom of the picture, followed by pinnatiform leaves as it climbs the trunk.

(Note. On a subsequent visit to the Mt Auckland site I bruised a number of these fern fronds over several trees with no appreciable resulting fragrance. There is, however, a strong resemblance between this photo and the one on the NZPCN website. Dobbie comments that the smell is evident when a frond has been recently pressed. More information needed.)

Here you can see the attachments to the trunk of its host.


New Zealand Flora Information

Family: Polypodiaceae

Genus: Phymatodes

Species: Phymatodes scandens

for a fuller comment on this

Entry on genus Microsorum in Australian Flora:

Epiphytic or lithophytic ferns, occasionally terrestrial. Rhizome long- or short-creeping, scaly; scales clathrate, at least in the centre. Stipes articulated to short stalks (phyllopodia) borne at intervals along the rhizome. Lamina simple and entire, variously lobed or deeply 1-pinnatifid; veinlets running in all directions and ending in hydathodes. Sori rounded or somewhat elongated, superficial or impressed into the lamina, arranged in ±regular rows or scattered over the surface. Spores smooth or tuberculate. 

A genus of c. 50 species, including those sometimes placed in Phymatodes C.Presl (now correctly called Phymatosorus Pic.Serm.) from Africa to Polynesia but predominantly in tropical Asia; eight species in Australia. 

Phymatosorus has been quite widely adopted recently, following Bosman (1991), but I (PDB) prefer to retain the more broadly circumscribed genus. Nooteboom (1997) has confirmed that some of the diagnostic characters of Phymatosorus, as interpreted by Bosman, are not as consistent as she implied, or were interpreted incorrectly. In addition, there is evidence of hybridity between the genera Microsorum s. str. and Phymatosorus (see Microsorum maximum p. 481). In particular, the application of the terms anadromous and catadromous is of doubtful value when applied to areolate venation.


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