Some Simple and Primitive Forms
Among simple forms are two species of the adder's tongue, Ophioglossum, and the parsley fern, Botrychium australe, with finely divided leaves, and the allied mountain species, B. lunaria. In the north there is the magnificent king fern, Marratia salicinia, with fronds up to 12 ft long and queer, fused sporangia. Of the royal fern family, Osmundaceae, we have the fine Todea barbara of the far north, with its tall, stiff tufts of fronds, and its beautiful relative, the Prince of Wales feathers, Leptopteris superba, found in damp woods.
Vastly different are the small Schizaea spp., not at all fern-like in appearance, one of which, the fan fern, S. dichotoma, is found in kauri forests. Of the same family is that intriguing climber, the mange mange, Lygodium articulatum, which festoons forest trees, climbing by the midrib of the leaf. It is sometimes said to have the longest leaf in the world.
Five species of Gleicheniaceae are found here and they show more advanced forms. These are sun-loving ferns with an unusual method of growth. The frond divides into two branches; later each of these may divide again. The northern Gleichenia fiabellata and the widespread umbrella fern, G. cunninghamii, are both very handsome. G. dicarpa, common in swampy places, and G. microphylla are both heath-like plants. The tropical Dicranopteris linearis is found near hot springs of the thermal regions.
(The name Dicanopteris may now be used for Gleichenia, but the latter is the name by which the rather unusual genus is popularly known, and is used by Allan.)
A remarkable and very beautiful plant is Loxoma cunninghamii, with distinctive elegant triangular fronds up to 4 ft long. The little sori on the frond margin have their sporangia on tiny projecting columns. This is found only in the northern half of the North Island.