March in the hills with Chris Horne
Microsorum scandens, Mokimoki, Fragrant fern
Microsorum means ‘with little sori’; scandens means ‘climbing’, referring to the climbing habit of this fern. It is closely related to hound’s tongue/kōwaowao, described in the February Tramper. When crushed, a frond of mokimoki smells like freshly cut grass. After drying, it has a sweet and enduring aroma, hence the name ‘fragrant fern’.
Distribution and habitat
Mokimoki is common in coastal and lowland forest from North Cape to as far south as Franz Josef, Westland. It also grows on the Chatham Islands, and in Australia, including Norfolk Island. Thus it is native to New Zealand, but it is not endemic. Look for it creeping on the ground, or over rocks, or climbing trees. Mokimoki prefers damper habitats than kōwaowao, which is the reason it is rare on the east coast of the North and South islands.
Mokimoki’s rhizome is 2-4 mm in diameter, far-creeping and much-branched. It is densely clad in dark brown scales up to 5 mm long. The stipes/stalks, 3-10 cm long, are pale brown and slender and have very narrow wings.
The fronds, dull green and thin, have three different forms, often occurring on the same plant: 5-35 cm long x 5-10 mm wide, strap-like, and tapering to an obtuse tip. This form occasionally bears sori. 20-30 cm long x 5-10 cm wide, irregularly divided with the lobes arranged either side of the mid-rib, mainly in the middle section of the frond. The lobes are from 1-5 cm long, sometimes on only one side of the frond, and they gradually taper from the base up to 10 mm wide. The terminal pinna/segment is long, and usually bears sori. 35 - 50 cm long x 18 cm wide, with up to thirty smooth-edged lobes up to 8 cm long or more, tapering from their bases. The terminal pinna/segment is long and usually bears many sori.
When the round, orange-brown sori on the underside of fertile fronds ripen and open, they release the spores which are spread by the wind to germinate in new sites.
Māori used mokimoki as a scent for their hair and bodies, and in their whare. Where to look for mokimoki Mokimoki is a common forest fern, so look for it wherever you tramp, in bush up to about 1000m above sea level.