Fern stamps

New Zealand Post has just released a series of postage stamps featuring five New Zealand ferns. The illustrations are excellent.

Images of the stamps, from New Zealand Post’s website.

The five ferns featured are:

  • hen and chickens fern, Asplenium bulbiferum – $0.70
  • kidney fern, Cardiomanes reniforme – $1.40
  • Colenso’s hard fern, Blechnum colensoi – $1.90
  • umbrella fern, Sticherus cunninghamii – $2.40
  • silver fern, Cyathea dealbata – $2.90

Colenso’s hard fern , Blechnum colensoi. P023538. Te Papa.

All five featured species are endemic to New Zealand. That is, they are indigenous only to New Zealand. This is in the context of about half of New Zealand’s nearly 200 indigenous fern species being also indigenous to somewhere else in the world (mostly south-eastern Australia).

Silver fern (ponga) should need no introduction, being New Zealand’s sporting emblem. Hen and chickens fern (manamana) is common in wetter forests, but it is a look-alike, the false hen and chickens fern, that is common in gardens. Kidney fern is very distinctive and rather un-fern like! It is a filmy fern but has no close relatives. Its previous classification in Trichomanes has been shown to be wrong and some place it in Hymenophyllum; we retain it in Cardiomanes. Umbrella fern also has an atypical growth form, with its stems repeatedly forking. Colenso’s hard fern is restricted to wet, (and usually) cold sites.

Kidney fern, Cardiomanes reniforme. P023548. Te Papa.

Te Papa’s specimens, with maps and photos, of:

More information on the false (or cultivated) hen & chickens fern.

Te Papa’s Patrick Brownsey, who wrote the book New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants, short-listed candidate species for the stamp issue, and helped the designer source authentic material. They visited Kaitoke, near Wellington, to see living plants of these species. Patrick also wrote the text for the presentation pack.

If you are interested in learning more about New Zealand’s ferns, you might find the following Te Papa links useful:

Common New Zealand ferns.

New Zealand tree ferns.

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