T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Asplenium bulbiferum (Hen and Chicken Fern)

Division: Pteridophyta 
Class: Polypodiopsida 
Order: Polypodiales 
Family: Aspleniaceae 
Genus: splenium 
Species: A. bulbiferum
Scientific name: Asplenium bulbiferum
Common Names : Hen and Chicken Fern, Mother Spleenwort , Pikopiko, Mouku

Common in lowland forests. Hen and chicken ferns grow small bulbils (chickens) on top of their fronds. Once grown to about 5 cm, these off springs fall off and, provided the soil they land in is kept moist, develop a root system and grow into new ferns. This additional means of reproduction is easier to use for propagation than spores. Hen and Chicken fern is a common species in bush areas of the ground-layer, especially in high rainfall areas. Extremely palatable to deer and goats.

These ferns features are: Its rhizome is short, stout, erect, bearing ovate scales up to 15 × 5 mm. Stapes 50-300 mm long, brown on underside, green above, stout, covered in small brown ovate scales. The laminae are lanceolate to elliptic, 0.15-1.20 m, 70-300 mm, bi- to tripinnate, sometimes bearing bulbils. They are pale green to yellow-green, scaly, prominently grooved, usually bulbiferous. Pinnae 15-30 (or more) pairs, ovate to narrowly ovate, acuminate, shortly stalked, 30-200 × 10-50 mm, scaly on underside, basal pair pointing downwards when fresh. Secondary pinnae sessile or shortly stalked, very narrowly elliptic to ovate or elliptic, obtuse, deeply serrate or sometimes almost pinnate, decreasing in size from base to apex, basal acroscopic pinnule often enlarged (up to 40 × 10 mm). The ultimate pinnules are narrowly oblong, ± entire to crenate-serrate, up to 10 mm long. Sori are numerous, broad, submarginal and 2-4 mm long.
Most of the wild fern varieties that grow in damp shady areas of New Zealand's native bush are carcinogenic of 312 different varieties, only seven varieties are edible. Pikopiko fern tips are edible known as bush asparagus, are pale green with brown speckles eaten as a vegetable. Picked before the leaves unfold, the fronds add a unique 'forest' flavour to dishes. Fronds were used for bedding and the roots was eaten and an infusion drunk in the treatment of skin disease.



Photo show how this fern got its name. Hen & chickens ferns get their common name from their production of bulbils, or vegetative outgrowths, on the upperside of their fronds. These bulbils are the ‘chickens’ and the fronds are the mother ‘hen’. The bulbils are a vegetative, non-sexual mode of reproduction and can grow into new individuals, as a clone of their parent.  These bulbils fall readily from the parent, spreading cascading colonies of plantlets.