The discovery of a fern that actively hides
The enigmatic filmy fern Hymenophyllum whitei was only known by a single collection in 1931 by Cyril White from Thornton Peak, which rises above the Daintree Rainforest to a height of 1374 metres.
Botanist from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Dr Matt Renner was a part of an expedition with the Australian Tropical Herbarium tasked with trying to find the ferns.
“Hymenophyllum whitei is extremely hard to spot as its fronds are only three centimetres long and when dry they actively hide by curling up and retreating into surrounding mosses and liverworts” said Dr Renner.
“Ideally, you’d climb Thornton Peak during a spell of dry weather, but that’s when Hymenophyllum whitei is hardest to find.
“Our expedition dates were fixed and due to some rain, we were able to spot Hymenophyllum whitei growing on a boulder on the side of the track on our way to Thornton Peak’s summit.
“At first we struggled to convince ourselves that ‘this was it’, but upon closer examination, we knew it couldn’t be anything else, so we allowed ourselves to get completely ecstatic about it,” Dr Renner said.