Scientific Name:
Macrothelypteris torresiana (Gaudich.) Ching, Acta Phytotax. Sin. 8: 310 (1963)
  • Polystichum torresianum Gaudich. in Freycinet, Voy. Uranie, Bot. 333 (1828)
  • Lastrea torresiana (Gaudich.) T.Moore, Index Fil. 106 (1858)
  • Thelypteris torresiana (Gaudich.) Alston, Lilloa 30: 111 (1960)
Lectotype (selected by Holttum 1977): Mariana Islands, C. Gaudichaud-Beaupré, P (n.v.)
  • = Aspidium uliginosum Kunze, Linnaea 20: 6 (1847)
  • Dryopteris uliginosa (Kunze) C.Chr., Index Filic. Suppl. 3, 100 (1934)
  • Thelypteris uliginosa (Kunze) Ching, Bull. Fan Mem. Inst. Biol. 6: 342 (1936)
Lectotype (selected by Morton 1973): cult. Hort. Bot. Leipzig, originally from Java, BR (n.v.)
Named in honour of Luís Vaz de Torres (b. 1565), a Spanish pilot on de Queirós’s expedition to the Pacific (1605–1607), after whom Torres Strait is named.

Rhizomes short-creeping to erect, 3–5 mm diameter, scaly. Rhizome scales narrowly ovate, 6–10 mm long, 0.5–1 mm wide, pale to dark brown, with numerous marginal and superficial hairs. Fronds 235–1200 mm long, rarely up to 2000 mm, arching upwards. Stipes 90–750 mm long, glaucous when fresh, yellow-brown when dry, swollen and with scales and hairs near base especially when young, slightly rough proximally but smooth and glabrous distally. Laminae deeply 2-pinnate-pinnatifid to 3-pinnate-pinnatifid, ovate, gradually tapering to the apex, 145–1000 mm long, 95–700 mm wide, light green on both surfaces, herbaceous. Scales virtually absent; colourless, acicular hairs up to 0.6 mm long on adaxial costa surfaces, and multicellular hairs up to 2 mm long on the abaxial costae and vein surfaces; short-stalked glands up to c. 0.1 mm long on all lamina surfaces. Primary pinnae in 15–25 pairs, widely spaced especially proximally, narrowly ovate to ovate; the longest near the base, short-stalked, 60–450 mm long, 25–200 mm wide, reducing gradually in length to the apex; the basal pair often not much reduced in length. Secondary pinnae narrowly ovate, 16–120 mm long, 5–40 mm wide, midribs narrowly winged, apices acuminate, bases decurrent. Tertiary pinnae (when present) oblong, 8–24 mm long, 1–6 mm wide, apices obtuse, margins serrate to divided more than halfway to midrib, bases decurrent forming a wing on the secondary pinna midribs. Veins all free, branching in ultimate pinna segments, not reaching the margins. Sori round, on veins of ultimate segments, away from pinna margins; indusia reniform, 0.2–0.4 mm diameter, bearing capitate hairs or almost glabrous.


Macrothelypteris torresiana is recognised by its large fronds, glaucous stipes, 2-pinnate-pinnatifid or more divided laminae, free veins, indumentum of long multicellular acicular hairs on the abaxial surfaces and much shorter glands, absence of scales on the laminae, and tiny indusia.


North Island: Northland

Kermadec Islands

Altitudinal range:  30–120 m.

In New Zealand Macrothelypteris torresiana occurs regularly only on the Kermadec Islands (recorded from Raoul and Macauley Islands). On Raoul Island it was reported as a "generally uncommon species" by Sykes (1977) but 20 years later was said to be increasing in abundance (de Lange & Crowcroft 1997), following cyclone disturbance which had enabled it to expand its range. It has been collected from 30–120 m.  A vagrant occurrence at Surville Cliffs, North Cape was reported by de Lange & Crowcroft (1997) but has not been relocated since. This record is the southernmost occurrence of the species in the Pacific region.

Also in tropical and subtropical regions from Madagascar to India, China, Japan, south-east Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands as far as Pitcairn Island. Naturalised in the American tropics and subtropics (Holttum 1969, 1977), southern Africa (Crouch et al. 2011) and Hawai‘i (Palmer 2003).


Macrothelypteris torresiana has been recorded on Raoul Island from disturbed habitats and slip faces in open sunny areas, on banks, in swamps and on Macauley Island from the base of canyon walls growing with sparse Hypolepis dicksonioides.  At North Cape, on Surville Cliffs, it was found on open ultramafic rock scree (de Lange & Crowcroft 1997).

Indigenous (Non-endemic)

The species was given a conservation status of 'At Risk / Naturally Uncommon' by de Lange et al. (2018).


Names used in earlier Floras based on Cheilanthes setigera Blume (notably Nephrodium setigerum and Dryopteris setigera) are misidentifications. Macrothelypteris setigera is a Malesian species that has been much confused with M. torresiana (Holttum 1977).

It was reported by de Lange & Crowcroft (1997) that occasional cultivated specimens of M. torresiana have set viable spores, and given rise to sporelings in the vicinity of the adult plants (e.g. the experimental glasshouses at the University of Auckland, AK 231884, 231951). This location is a long way south of the southernmost known wild population at Surville Cliffs. However, de Lange & Crowcroft noted that such occurrences are uncommon and that few sporelings survive, even in the mild Auckland winters. Further north, however, M. torresiana self-sows outside and can withstand winters in Kerikeri; iNaturalist observation #67228856 shows a plant that has grown in an old compost heap for several years. Source material was not from New Zealand and was grown in a commercial fern nursery.

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Brownsey, P.J.; Perrie, L.R. 2022: Thelypteridaceae. Edition 2. In: Glenny, D. (ed.) Flora of New Zealand - Ferns and Lycophytes. Fascicle 16. Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln.
Brownsey, P.J.; Smith-Dodsworth, J.C. 2000: New Zealand ferns and allied plants. Edition 2. David Bateman, Auckland.
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Ching, R.C. 1963: A reclassification of the family Thelypteridaceae from the mainland of Asia. Acta Phytotaxonomica Sinica 8: 289–335.
Christensen, C. 1934: Index Filicum. Supplementum tertium pro annis 1917–1933. Hagerup, Copenhagen.
Crouch, N.R.; Klopper, R.R.; Burrows, J.E.; Burrows, S.M. 2011: Ferns of southern Africa. A comprehensive guide. Struik Nature, Cape Town.
de Lange, P.J.; Crowcroft, G.M. 1997: Macrothelypteris torresiana (Thelypteridaceae) at North Cape, North Island, New Zealand – a new southern limit for a tropical fern. New Zealand Journal of Botany 35: 555–558.
de Lange, P.J.; Murray, B.G.; Datson, P.M. 2004: Contributions to a chromosome atlas of the New Zealand flora – 38. Counts for 50 families. New Zealand Journal of Botany 42: 873–904.
de Lange, P.J.; Norton, D.A.; Courtney, S.P.; Heenan, P.B.; Barkla, J.W.; Cameron, E.K.; Hitchmough, R.; Townsend, A.J. 2009: Threatened and uncommon plants of New Zealand (2008 revision). New Zealand Journal of Botany 47: 61–96. [Naturally uncommon]
de Lange, P.J.; Norton, D.A.; Heenan, P.B.; Courtney, S.P.; Molloy, B.P.J.; Ogle, C.C.; Rance, B.D. 2004: Threatened and uncommon plants of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 42(1): 45–76.
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Barkla J.W.; Courtney, S.P.; Champion, P.D.; Perrie, L.R.; Beadel, S.N.; Ford, K.A.; Breitwieser, I.; Schönberger, I.; Hindmarsh-Walls, R.; Heenan, P.B.; Ladley, K. 2018: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2017. New Zealand Threat Classification Series. No. 22. [Naturally Uncommon]
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Champion, P.D.; Courtney, S.P.; Heenan, P.B.; Barkla, J.W.; Cameron, E.K.; Norton, D.A.; Hitchmough, R.A. 2013: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 3. Department of Conservation, Wellington. [Naturally Uncommon]
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