Learn to recognise some of New Zealand’s common ferns

Learn to recognise some of New Zealand’s common ferns

Would you like to learn to recognise some of New Zealand’s ferns?

“Fernland” was an early colloquial name for New Zealand, so it’s almost patriotic to be able to recognise a few of the country’s ferns!

I’ve put together notes and images for 13 common species, showing how to distinguish them and where you might find them.

Common New Zealand ferns, from Te Papa’s Collections Online website.

Hound’s tongue fern, Microsorum pustulatum.

The featured ferns are:

African clubmoss (not actually a fern, but a similar kind of plant)

button fern

Cunningham’s maidenhair

drooping filmy fern

fork fern

hen & chickens fern

hound’s tongue


prickly shield fern

silver fern

single crape fern

sweet fern


All are common and widespread in New Zealand.  Check out the pictures and see how many you already recognise.

Let me know, by email or by posting a comment, if you would like to know more about any of these species, or other ferns.

Also let me know if you are interested in similar resources for other groups of plants or animals, and I will pass the request on to Te Papa’s relevant curator to see what they can do.

Te Papa’s Collections Online website is a work in progress.  All of the images in the “Common New Zealand ferns” pages are actually high-resolution, but you’ll notice that you can’t ‘zoomify’ them.  Additionally, the image captions are not particularly helpful.  Hopefully we’ll be able to fix these limitations before too long.

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