Asplenium polyodon

Sickle Spleenwort / Mare’s Tail Fern

Family: Aspleniaceae

A pendent fern which a thick rhizome, forming fronds to about 1 metre long by 0.3 m wide.

It is found along most of the NSW coast, north from around Bermagui-Narooma, extending into the ranges near Lithgow and places such as Walcha and Tenterfield. It extends into Queensland commonly, growing up the coast and coastal inland to south of Cooktown. It was collected in Victoria near Genoa in 1940 but is now extinct there. It grows commonly in New Zealand, especially the north island.

It is found in rainforest, commonly as an epiphyte (growing on trees or other plants) and as a lithophyte (growing on rocks).

Asplenium spp. exhibit a wide range of frond appearances as well as plant habits. In this species, fronds are compound-pinnate fronds, to about 1 m long, having a Blechnum-like appearance with the frond segments lanceolate to linear, to 15 cm long, with an acuminate apex and toothed edges.

Being a fern, no flowers or fruits are produced. Rather, spores are produced.

Spores are produced in sori (spore houses), to 11 mm long, linear, on the underside of frond segments.

In the garden

Not much is currently known about the cultivation potential of this species.

It could be grown in pots indoors and would lend to rainforest and moist shady gardens.

Could be grown as an epiphyte on trees and rocks.

Likely needs good drainage and mostly shade to thrive.

May be able to be established on rock walls and similar substrates if plants can be sourced.

May suffer from scale if grown indoors. It would make a nice addition to a green house or fernery.


Propagation is from plant division or by spores.

Other information

This species is likely detrimented by fire and likely grows in places where fire is not a regular occurrence.

Asplenium is a large genus of around 650 species, spread throughout much of the world. Australia has around 30 species occurring in all states and territories. NSW currently has 17 species.

Asplenium – from the Latin-Greek a– (without) and –splenio (σπλήνιο) meaning “spleen”. Asplenia is the medical condition for the absence of a spleen or a spleen that does not function correctly.
This genus is generally known as spleenworts as some species have sori which resemble the human spleen in appearance. This generated the belief in ancient times that the plants were then beneficial for the human spleen. The genus name means “no-spleen” or “no connection to the spleen”.

polyodon – Greek – poly (πολυ) meaning “many” and odos (οδούς) meaning “teeth”, referring to the toothed segments on the fronds. There is also a fish genus called Polyodon (Paddlefishes)

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. It has gone extinct in Victoria where it was only known from one location.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Asplenium polyodon profile page      https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Asplenium~polyodon

Wikipedia – Asplenium polyodon profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asplenium_polyodon

University of New Zealand – NZ Plants – Asplenium polyodon profile page http://www.nzplants.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/ferns/native-ferns/aspleniaceae-spleenworts/asplenium-polydon.html


By Dan Clarke