Probably the best known New Zealand fern in the silver fern (Cyathea dealbata), or ponga in Māori (photo above, showing the fronds’ silvery underside, which give it its name). The silver fern is the emblem worn by all our national sporting teams, and also found in logos for New Zealand companies and organisations.
|NZ Coat of Arms|
The fern has many official uses, too, ranging from the Coat of Arms of New Zealand (right) to war memorials, and it’s also used on graves of fallen New Zealand soldiers. It’s even been proposed as the basis for a new New Zealand flag.
Sometimes, the tightly wound new frond, called a koru, is used as a symbol, too. It forms the basis of the logo for Air New Zealand, our national airlines, among many others. I took the photo of the koru (below–click to enlarge) a few Springs ago in our back yard.
The New Zealand Department of Convervation, which has a stylised koru in its logo, provides these Fern Facts:
- The leaves of ferns are called fronds and when they are young they are tightly coiled into a tight spiral. This shape, called a ‘koru’ in Māori, is a popular motif in many New Zealand designs.
- Ferns can be categorised based on their growth form such as tufted, creeping, climbing, perching and tree ferns.
- One notable New Zealand fern is bracken (rārahu), which grows in open, disturbed areas and was a staple of the early Māori diet in places too cold for the kūmara to grow. The roots were gathered in spring or early summer and left to dry before they were cooked and eaten.
- The silver fern or ponga is a national symbol and is named for the silver underside of its fronds.
- The mamaku is New Zealand’s tallest tree fern, growing up to 20 metres high.
- Wheki is another type of tree fern that can be distinguished by its hairy koru and ‘skirt’ of dead, brown fronds hanging from under the crown. It often forms groves by means of spreading underground rhizomes, which give rise to several stems.
- Most ferns reproduce sexually, but some ferns also have efficient means of vegetative reproduction, such as the underground stems of bracken and the tiny bulblets that grow on the surface of fronds of the hen-and-chicken fern.
Ferns are a symbol of New Zealand, in much the same way that the maple leaf is a symbol of Canada. Anyone who visits New Zealand will instantly see why that is. Plus, they’re really beautful.
- The cropped photo of the silver fern at the top of this post is by Tatania Gerus [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- The NZ Coat of Arms vector image is by Sodacan. [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
- The photo of the koru is my own (credit: Arthur Schenck). [CC BY-NC-SA NZ 3.0].
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