Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden


PROTO POLYNESIAN Palatao "A large fern"
MAORI Paretao Asplenium obtusatum & A. oblongifolium.


The fern names palatao (Niuean) and paretao (Mäori) are possibly reflexes of a Proto Polynesian word, either *paletao or palatao (possibly both, as variant forms with a common meaning), although the ferns they refer to have little in common besides their shiny leaves, and perhaps the shape of the leaflets on the fronds, especially those of Asplenium oblongifolium compared with Angiopteris evecta. The Niuean pair are species of giant ferns native to parts of Pacific, but which can be highly invasive.in new environments. Angiopteris evecta has fronds up to 7 metres long. It is a native of the Western Pacific, including Western Polynesia; it was introduced to Hawaii in the 1920s and has become a serious threat to native flora in some forests to which it has escaped. Pteris tripartita is another widely distributed giant fern, a little smaller than the Angiopteris (fronds up to 3 metres long), but has also become a menace outside its native habitats.

Asplenium oblongifolium (formerly A. lucidum) and A. obtusatum are relatively small ferns. The glossy, dark green fronds of A. oblongifolium can reach about a metre and a half in length when it is growng in optimum conditions in open but shaded parts of the forest, but in drier, more exposed conditions it may be much smaller. In some environments it can be a dominant and quite conspicuous plant in the forest understory, which may be what originally merited its heritage name. It is found most often near the coast, and is endemic to New Zealand and the Kermadecs. Its leaves seem to be very attractive to rabbits, which is why there is only one photograph at present of those in the language garden, showing part of a mature frond -- I will take some more when they recover sufficiently from a rather severe attack.

A. obtusatum is a coastal fern, about half the size of A. lucudum, with much duller and thicker foliage; it grows naturally mainly in exposed places, often perched on rocks or among coastal herbage exposed to sea spray. It is also found in South America, sub-antarctic islands, Australia and some Pacific Islands. Both ferns have as alternative names paranako or parenako (again probably partly reflecting Proto Polynesian *para). Asplenium oblongoifolium is also known as huruhuruwhenua.

Niuean: Palatao (Angiopteris evecta [Marattiaceae] & Pteris tripartita [Pteridaceae])
Maori: Paretao (Asplenium oblongifolium & A. obtusatum [Aspleniaceae])

Related Word: *Pala

Angiopteris evecta Angiopteris evecta (Hawaii)
HuruhuruwhenuaParetao, Asplenium oblongifolium frond -
Te Mära Reo

Angiopteris evecta Angiopteris evecta (Hawaii)

Angiopteris evecta Pteris tripartita (Florida)

Asplenium oblongifolium Asplenium oblongifolium (Auckland)

Angiopteris evecta Asplenium obtusatum (Australia)

Further information: There is information about Angiopteris evecta on the Hawaii State Forestry and Wildlife Bureau's website, and about Pteris tripartita on the Cook Islands biodiversity website. The Plant Systematics website has a good photograph demonstrating the huge size of Angiopteris evecta fronds. There are more inages of Pteris tripartita on the "Diversity of Life" website. The Auckland University Biological Sciences website has a variety of photos and information about Asplenium oblongifolium and some related species.
Photographs: Angiopteris evecta - top, by J. Brew, Tree of Life website, above left, National Tropical Botanical Garden, on Hawaii State Forestry and Wildlife website (link above); Pteris tripartita, M.S. Rosenthal website; Asplenium oblongifolium, top, Te Mära Reo, above left, Larry Jensen, University of Auckland (link above); Asplenium obtusatum, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria web site.

Hue flower

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand
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