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Asplenium bulbiferum, known as mother spleenwort, is a fern species native to New Zealand only. It is also called hen and chicken fern and, in the Māori language, pikopiko, mouku or mauku. Its fronds are eaten as a vegetable. It is often confused with A. gracillimum which is a fern species native to both New Zealand and Australia.
Hen and chicken ferns grow small bulbils on top of their fronds. Once grown to about 5 cm (2 in), these offspring 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 can be employed with greater ease than propagation by spores. There are a number of similar Southern Hemisphere species which have a similar mode of reproduction, including A. daucifolium.
The hen and chicken fern commonly grows in most bush areas in New Zealand. It thrives in many situations from shade to partial sunlight.
Cultivated hybrid plants
Plants sold commercially as A. bulbiferum are popular, including as an indoor plant, tolerating areas with low light. However, DNA evidence has shown these plants are most commonly hybrids between the New Zealand A. bulbiferum and the Australian A. dimorphum. They are much larger than typical A. bulbiferum and the fronds with and without sporangia differ in the degree of dissection. The spores do not germinate but the plants propagate readily by means of the bulbils. These plants should be known as A. × lucrosum Perrie, Shepherd & Brownsey, and should not be used in revegetation projects where indigenous vegetation is required.
- APNI. "Asplenium gracillimum Colenso". Australian Plant Name Index. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Perrie, LR; Shepherd, LD; Brownsey, PJ (February 2005). "Asplenium ×lucrosum nothosp. nov.: a sterile hybrid widely and erroneously cultivated as "Asplenium bulbiferum"". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 250 (3–4): 243–257. doi:10.1007/s00606-004-0239-7. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Nutritional value of NZ edible plants: Pikopiko
- Indigenous Maori food ingredients: Pikopiko
- New Zealand Plant Conservation Network: Asplenium bulbiferum
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