Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Information Sheets Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group to the Minister for the Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010a) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
QLD:Tectaria devexa (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (Qld DEHP), 2013) [Internet].
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Endangered* (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
Scientific name Tectaria devexa [14767]
Family Dryopteridaceae:Aspidiales:Polypodiatae:Polypodiophyta:Plantae
Species author (Kunze ex Mett.) Copel.
Infraspecies author  
Reference Philippine Journal of Science 2C (1907) 415.
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Queensland: At the variety level, Tectaria devexa var. devexa is listed as Endangered under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Scientific name: Tectaria devexa

Two varieties of Tectaria devexa are known (Butz 2005; Du Puy & Orchard 1993):

  • T. d. var. devexa, which is known from southern Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, south China, Taiwan, the Philippines), Malesia, Vanuatu and the Rockhampton area of Queensland
  • T. d. var. minor, which is known from Sri Lanka and Christmas Island (Indian Ocean).

Tectaria devexa var. minor differs from T. d. var. devexa in having frond laminas that are almost glabrous beneath, although the veins are hairy (Du Puy & Orchard 1993).

Tectaria devexa is a small, tufted, terrestrial fern with pale green fronds (Qld DEHP 2013).

On mainland Australia, Tectaria devexa has been recorded from limestone caves 23 km north of Rockhampton, Queensland. The species has been recorded from Olsens Capricorn Caverns and caves in Mt Etna National Park (Vavryn 2001).

On Christmas Island, Tectaria devexa occurs on the plateau. It has been collected near Flying Fish Cove and at other unspecified localities on the island (Du Puy & Orchard 1993).

It is assumed that Tectaria devexa's extremely disjunct distribution is due to the retreat and fragmentation of rainforests on the mainland in the post-Tertiary period due to increased aridity and seasonal climatic fluctuation (Barry & Thomas 1996). Further drying of the climate may have encouraged semi-evergreen vine thickets, which can tolerate low rainfall (down to 70–100 mm per annum). In such scrubs, ferns are generally rare or absent (Kay 1994 cited in Butz 2005) and the species is limited to cave entrances, where light and wind are diminished and moisture is conserved (Butz 2005).

Tectaria devexa occurs in tropical/subtropical areas between Sri Lanka, southern China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Australia (Du Puy & Orchard 1993; Holttum 1968).

In Queensland, the Capricorn Caves are a popular tourist cave and in the mid 2000s Tectaria devexa had 21 plants at the site (Qld DEHP 2013). This is a decline from up to 40 plants in 1993 (Bostock 2001 pers. comm.) and reports of much greater abundance in 1945 (Qld DEHP 2013). This cave is considered to be well protected by the owners (Bostock 2001 pers. comm.). In 2001, the Mt Etna population in Queensland had about four mature individuals and five or six immature plants (Qld DEHP 2013). Anecdotal reports suggest that Tectaria devexa was previously more widespread in the area, alongside streams flowing north from Mount Etna (Barry & Thomas 1996), or on limestone outcrops and along limestone creek channels (O’Sullivan in litt. cited in Butz 2005).

In 2002, the Christmas Island population consisted of about 400 plants over 16 locations (Holmes & Holmes 2002).

In Queensland, Tectaria devexa is considered a calcophile (strong preference or requirement for limestone substrates) (Bostock 2001 pers. comm.; Holttum 1968). In Queensland, it is found only in limestone caves, often on the walls at the cave entrance and sometimes within the cave where shafts of light occasionally penetrate (Bostock 2001 pers. comm.). It grows in isolation from other vascular plants in shallow acid, brown, sandy-clay loams (pH 5.5) (Barry & Thomas 1994).

On Christmas Island, Tectaria devexa grows colonially, mainly on the plateau, in primary rainforest (tall and largely undisturbed), above 80 metres elevation; both in deeper soils and as a lithophyte (on mossy pinnacles at the base of a slope, a wet site) (Holmes & Holmes 2002). It may be the only forest floor species in this type of habitat (Du Puy & Orchard 1993).

Tectaria devexa reproduces from spores (Barry & Thomas 1996). There are no reports of vegetative reproduction. Plants do not develop buds on fronds, stem or roots but apomixis (asexual reproduction with plantlets) may occur (Bostock 2001 pers. comm.). Anecdotal information suggests that the species is extremely hardy. The population has survived periodic droughts, sometimes for a number of years (Barry & Thomas 1996).

Tectaria devexa closely resembles Tectaria dissecta but can be distinguished by its more finely divided fronds and by its network of connecting, rather than free leaf veins (Du Puy & Orchard 1993).

In Queensland, the principal threat to Tectaria devexa is the concentration of the species in two very small populations, with limited habitat and low numbers of individuals. Habitat degradation, hydrological change, mining and excessive visitation are potential threats (Butz 2005). Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Capricorn Caverns population has suffered a historical decline in numbers (Barry & Thomas 1996). Concerns have been raised about artificial watering, the security of the water availability and the impact of the water on spore reserves in the substrate (Barry & Thomas 1996; Chinook 1993). Rock wallabies (Petrogale spp.) and Scrub Turkeys (Alectura lathami) will uproot the fern searching for invertebrates among the rhizomes (Qld DEHP 2013).

On Christmas Island, the species is threatened by mining, road construction, weed invasion and loss of canopy gaps (Butz 2005).

In Queensland, a project to recover Tectaria devexa was initiated in 2006 by Greening Australia in partnership with Capricorn Caves, the Queensland Herbarium, Heaton’s Fern Nursery, Griffith University and The Society for Growing Australian Plants. The project was funded through the WWF Threatened Species Network (Qld DEHP 2013).

The project pioneered the propagation of Tectaria devexa with hundreds of young plants successfully raised from spores collected from mature surviving plants. Hand-raised ferns have been planted out into suitable micro-sites at Capricorn Caves. Many of the cave ferns have survived, however they are vulnerable to changes in weather and will wilt in prolonged periods of hot weather. While the fronds may appear dead, it has been found that the rhizome (roots) can remain dormant for 6–8 weeks. They recover after rain and soon grow new fronds. A watering system has been installed to help the ferns survive dry periods (Qld DEHP 2013).

Management documents relevant to Tectaria devexa are at the start of the profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Gathering Terrestrial Plants:Illegal collection National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Energy Production and Mining:Mining and Quarrying:Habitat destruction, disturbance and/or modification due to mining activities National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human induced disturbance due to unspecified activities National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:inappropriate conservation measures Tectaria devexa in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006vk) [Internet].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Work and Other Activities:Disturbance through scientific research National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:unspecified National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Agricultural Effluents:Pesticide application National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa (Butz M., 2005) [Recovery Plan].

Barry, S.J. & G.T. Thomas (1994). Threatened Vascular Rainforest Plants of South-east Queensland: A Conservation Review. Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage.

Barry, S.J. & G.T. Thomas (1996). Conservation Statement No. 4, Tectaria devexa (Kunze ex C.Chr.)Copel., Aspidiaceae. Conservation Strategy Branch, Dept Env. & Her. Brisbane.

Bostock, P.D. (2001). Personal Communication.

Butz M. (2005). National Recovery Plan for Tectaria devexa. [Online]. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. Available from:

Chinnock, R.J. (1993). BRI file No. 900T, letter in Queensland Herbarium files.

Du Puy, D.J. & Orchard, A.E. (1993). Dryopteridaceae. In: A.S. George, A.E. Orchard & H.J. Hewson, eds. Flora of Australia. 50:558-562. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Holmes, J. & G. Holmes (2002). Conservation Status of the Flora of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean.

Holttum, R.E. (1968). Revised Flora of Malaya. Government Printing Office, Singapore.

Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (Qld DEHP) (2013). Tectaria devexa. [Online]. Available from:

Vavryn, D. (2001). BRI file No. 900T, letter in Queensland Herbarium files.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Tectaria devexa in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:49:34 +1000.