Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum)
Species: P. esculentum
Scientific Name: Pteridium esculentum
Common Name: Bracken fern, rahurahu, rarauhe, rarahu, Austral bracken
Bracken fern is a common fern found in open sites throughout New Zealand. Cattle and horses grazing on young bracken fronds are susceptible to poisoning. Cattle develop internal bleeding and horses lose co-ordination. The creeping rhizome (underground stem) was an important food for Maori, who harvested it in late winter. They pounded roasted rhizomes to extract a starchy flour. The young shoots were also eaten. It is now known that bracken contains chemicals that cause cancer, and should not be eaten at all. Aruhe was taken before fishing trips to avoid seasickness.
The tau koura is a traditional method used by Te Arawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa to catch koura in Central North Island lakes. The technique involves placing bundles of bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum) on the lake bed that koura then colonise.