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Threatened Tasmanian Ferns
Flora Recovery Plan


Much of the site and ecological information in this Recovery Plan is based upon the work of Garrett (1997), with some passages reproduced verbatim and without repeated citation. The preparation of this Plan was funded by the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Citation: Threatened Species Section (2011). Flora Recovery Plan: Threatened Tasmanian Ferns. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart.

© Threatened Species Section

This work is copyright. It may be produced for study, research or training purposes subject to an acknowledgment of the sources and no commercial usage or sale. Requests and enquires concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Threatened Species Section, Biodiversity Conservation Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart.

Disclaimer: The attainment of objectives outlined in this Recovery Plan may be subject to budgetary and other constraints. Recommended recovery actions may be subject to modification due to changes in knowledge or conservation status.

ISBN: 978-0-7246-6598-3 (web) 978-0-7246-6601-0 (book)


ALCT Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania

CAR Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (Reserve System)

CLAC Crown Land Assessment and Classification project (DPIPWE)

DIER Tasmanian Department of Industry, Energy and Resources

DPIPWE Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment 1

DSEWPaC Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

EPBC Act Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

FPA Forest Practices Authority (DIER)

FT Forestry Tasmania

HEC Hydro Electric Corporation

MDC Management Decision Classification system (Forestry Tasmania)

MRT Mineral Resources Tasmania (DIER)

NRM Natural Resource Management

PWS Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (DPIPWE)

RFA Regional Forest Agreement

RTBG Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (DPIPWE)

SMZ Special Management Zone

TALSC Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council

TSP Act Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995

TSS Threatened Species Section, Biodiversity Conservation Branch (DPIPWE)
Taxonomy follows Buchanan (2009) except where otherwise noted, and common names follow Wapstra et al. (2005).



recovery & MANAGEMENT 12

Management Practices 21



Figure 1. Threatened fern distributions in Tasmania 5

Table 1. Conservation status of Tasmanian ferns on the schedules of the TSP and EPBC Acts 1

Table 2. Summary statistics for threatened fern taxa covered by this Recovery Plan 8

Table 3. Prioritised Recovery Actions 19

Table 4. Population summary for Anogramma leptophylla in Tasmania 24

Table 5. Population summary for Asplenium hookerianum in Tasmania 29

Table 6. Population summary for Blechnum cartilagineum in Tasmania 31

Table 7. Population summary for Botrychium australe in Tasmania 33

Table 8. Population summary for Cheilanthes distans in Tasmania 37

Table 9. Population summary for Cyathea cunninghamii in Tasmania 41

Table 10. Population summary for Cyathea Xmarcescens in Tasmania 46

Table 11. Population summary for Doodia caudata in Tasmania 49

Table 12. Population summary for Hypolepis distans in Tasmania 53

Table 13. Population summary for Isoetes drummondii subsp. drummondii in Tasmania 57

Table 14. Population summary for Phylloglossum drummondii in Tasmania 61

Table 15. Population summary for Pilularia novae-hollandiae in Tasmania 64

Table 16. Population summary for Pneumatopteris pennigera in Tasmania 69

Table 17. Population summary for Tmesipteris parva in Tasmania 73


This Recovery Plan addresses the conservation requirements of fourteen Tasmanian threatened ferns that are currently listed on the schedules of the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (TSP Act) or Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act; Table 1).2 The Plan relies heavily upon the work of Michael Garrett and other fern enthusiasts in the 1980s and early 1990s, culminating in the publication of The ferns of Tasmania – their ecology and distribution (Garrett 1996). Nine of the ferns to be considered in this Plan, those taxa deemed to occur in forested landscapes or at least in forest ecotones, were examined during the lead up to the Regional Forest Agreement between Tasmania and the Commonwealth of Australia (Garrett 1997).

In the fourteen years since the study of Garrett (1997) new populations of several of the threatened fern taxa have been discovered, while the reservation status of some species has been improved. This Plan provides up-to-date information on each of the fourteen fern taxa, and includes descriptions of the morphology, distribution and habitat of each taxon, identifies existing conservation measures, major threats and limiting factors, and proposes strategies and actions for their conservation over a five-year period. Adoption as a national Recovery Plan only refers to species listed under the EPBC Act.

Table 1. Conservation status of Tasmanian ferns on the schedules of the TSP and EPBC Acts

Scientific Name

Common Name

TSP Act Status

EPBC Act Status

Anogramma leptophylla

annual fern


Asplenium hookerianum 3

maidenhair spleenwort



Blechnum cartilagineum

gristle fern


Botrychium australe

parsley fern

presumed extinct

Cheilanthes distans

bristly rockfern


Cyathea cunninghamii

slender treefern


Cyathea Xmarcescens

skirted treefern


Doodia caudata

small raspfern


Hypolepis distans

scrambling groundfern



Isoetes drummondii subsp. drummondii

plain quillwort


Phylloglossum drummondii

pygmy clubmoss


Pilularia novae-hollandiae

Australian pillwort


Pneumatopteris pennigera

lime fern


Tmesipteris parva

small forkfern


Classification of species

The Pteridophytes (ferns and fern allies) are vascular plants that reproduce from spores. They are separated from other vascular plant groups (angiosperms and gymnosperms) by lacking flowers and reproducing from spores. They are separated from other cryptogamic plant groups (mosses, liverworts, lichens, fungi and algae) in having separate and free-living gametophyte and sporophyte generations, and in their possession of an internal vascular system (Garrett 1996; Tindale 1998). The true ferns belong to the class Filicopsida. The fern allies belong to three classes, all different but closely related to the ferns — Lycopsida (represented in Tasmania by the genera Lycopodium, Lycopodiella, Isoetes and Selaginella), Psilotopsida (Tmesipteris) and Equisetopsida (no Tasmanian representatives). The fern allies are differentiated from the true ferns by their sporangia being borne on the upper surface of the leaf, by leaves containing single, unbranched veins, and by the absence of true fronds (Tindale 1998).

Pteridophytes have evolved from a time in Earth’s history when water availability to plant life was more consistent and abundant than it is today. This, in addition to the fact that (most) pteridophyte species have a subsequent necessity for available moisture to facilitate fertilisation, means that nearly all are found growing in forested habitats or other habitats where there is a greater availability of moisture all year round, and where there is protection from the drying affects of sun and wind.

There are currently 101 pteridophytes recognised as being indigenous to mainland Tasmania (Buchanan 2009), with a single introduced species having naturalised status (Marsilea mutica). Eight of the indigenous taxa are endemic to Tasmania, while another three have their entire Australian distribution within Tasmania but also occur in New Zealand. Of the total number of pteridophyte species indigenous to Tasmania, 62 occur in forested habitats and 17 occur predominantly in either coastal heathland or wetland scrub habitats (Garrett 1996). Of this last figure, all except three are known to extend out of these habitats and into forested habitats. The remainder of Tasmania’s pteridophyte species are found in alpine, aquatic or littoral habitats.

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