Want to learn the scaly tree ferns? One could be on your flag

Are you getting out and about these Christmas holidays? Then we’ve got the ideal FREE gift for you – the eFloraNZ chapter on the scaly tree ferns.

eFloraNZ chapter for Cyathea, the scaly tree ferns. (pdf, 13 MB.)

Mamaku, Cyathea medullaris. This is New Zealand’s tallest tree fern. It is characterised by its thick, black stipes (the stalks of the fronds). It is more common in warmer, wetter areas. Photo © Leon Perrie.

Mamaku, Cyathea medullaris. This is New Zealand’s tallest tree fern. It is characterised by its thick, black stipes (the stalks of the fronds). It is more common in warmer, wetter areas. Photo © Leon Perrie.

You’ll find scaly tree ferns almost everywhere in New Zealand where there are forests. They can be superabundant in places.

Lots of mamaku growing on a hillside. Photo © Leon Perrie.

Lots of mamaku growing on a hillside. Photo © Leon Perrie.

You can use this eFloraNZ chapter to learn the different scaly tree ferns. Being an authoritative account, the eFloraNZ is a little technical. If that doesn’t suit you, try Te Papa’s online guide to New Zealand’s tree ferns, or get a crowd-sourced identification by uploading photos to the citizen science website NatureWatchNZ.

Te Papa’s online guide to New Zealand tree ferns.

Homepage for the citizen science website NatureWatchNZ.

New Zealand’s scaly tree ferns

Five scaly tree fern species, in the genus Cyathea, are native to mainland New Zealand (although one, Cyathea colensoi, does not produce a trunk!). Another two species are restricted to New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands.

At left is part of a koru, or unfurling frond, of silver fern (Cyathea dealbata), clothed in scales. For comparison at right, is a koru of whekī (Dicksonia squarrosa), which is clothed in hairs, whekī being one of New Zealand’s three species of hairy tree ferns. Hairs on ferns are about as narrow as mammal hairs. On a fern, if it is wider than a hair, it is called a scale. The scales on silver fern are clearly wider than hairs. Composite © Te Papa.

At left is part of a koru, or unfurling frond, of silver fern (Cyathea dealbata), clothed in scales. For comparison at right, is a koru of whekī (Dicksonia squarrosa), which is clothed in hairs, whekī being one of New Zealand’s three species of hairy tree ferns. Hairs on ferns are about as narrow as mammal hairs. On a fern, if it is wider than a hair, it is called a scale. The scales on silver fern are clearly wider than hairs. Composite © Te Papa.

The silver fern, or ponga, is a scaly tree fern, Cyathea dealbata. What presumably equates to a secondary pinna of a frond, albeit with a longer stalk, graces some of the options currently being considered for New Zealand’s flag.

The silver fern is not as widespread through New Zealand as you might think, especially for such a popular icon.

Distribution map in the eFloraNZ for silver fern (click and scroll down).

All you need to know about the silver fern – Te Papa blog post.

Homepage of the [New Zealand] Flag Consideration Project.

Silver fern, with its characteristic white under-surface of the frond. The photo shows part of a primary pinna, and its secondary pinnae are arranged horizontally in this photo. Something approximating a secondary pinna may end up on the New Zealand flag. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Silver fern, with its characteristic white under-surface of the frond. The photo shows part of a primary pinna, and its secondary pinnae are arranged horizontally in this photo. Something approximating a secondary pinna may end up on the New Zealand flag. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Previous Te Papa blog posts on scaly tree ferns.

What is the eFloraNZ?

The eFloraNZ (electronic Flora of New Zealand) is a collaboration between Te Papa and Landcare Research. It has made definitive accounts of New Zealand’s land plants available online. While much of the information is outdated, it is being progressively revised.

Homepage of eFloraNZ.

eFloraNZ chapters produced in the last few years.

Publication of the eFloraNZ chapter for the scaly tree ferns means eFloraNZ revisions now encompass all of New Zealand’s tree ferns. The eFloraNZ chapter for the hairy tree ferns, in the genus Dicksonia, was published earlier this year.

eFloraNZ chapter on the hairy tree ferns, Dicksonia. (pdf, 6.4 MB)

Previous Te Papa blog posts about the eFloraNZ.

Bonus

Also just published is the eFloraNZ chapter for the Ophioglossaceae ferns, including the parsley ferns, moonworts, and adder’s tongues. Well done if you see one of these – these diminutive ferns are much harder to spot than tree ferns!

eFloraNZ chapter for the Ophioglossaceae ferns. (pdf, 4.4 MB)

The next fern chapter for the eFloraNZ should be the Hymenophyllaceae filmy ferns, which will hopefully be published early-2016.  The chapter for the Thelypteridaceae is also in production, while we’re currently drafting the chapter for the Aspleniaceae spleenwort ferns.

2 Responses

  1. David Hutchinson

    As usual, outstanding work Leon. Can’t wait for the Hymenophyllaceae chapter. Imagine writing it is not for the faint-hearted!

    Reply
  2. Sally Tripp

    Thanks Leon. This is good information and so useful to have.

    Reply

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