T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Pteridopsida
Order: Dennstaedtiales
Family: Dennstaedtiaceae
Genus: Pteridium
Species: P. esculentum
Scientific name: Pteridium esculentum
SynonymPteridium aquilinum var. esculentum
Common Name: Bracken fern, rahurahu, rarauhe, rarahu, Austral bracken

Bracken fern is a common fern found in open sites throughout New Zealand. It is in the family of Dennstaedticeae which are characterised by bearing sori on the margins of the pinnae. Pteridium esculentum is deeply rooted and the pinnae are dark green on the upper leaf surface and paler beneath. It is a distinctive species of fern and cannot easily be confused with any other native fern.  It is indigenous to New Zealand’s Kermadec (Raoul Island only), North, South, Stewart, Chatham and Antipodes Islands. It is also found in South East Asia, Australia, Lord Howe, Norfolk Islands extending into western Oceania.

Early Māori used bracken for a wide range of purposes including food, medicine and building materials. 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. Bracken root was a significant carbohydrate in the diet of Māori who lived in areas too cold to cultivate kumara. The young shoots were also eaten. 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.

It is now known that bracken contains chemicals that cause cancer, and should not be eaten at all.
Cattle and horses grazing on young bracken fronds are susceptible to poisoning. Cattle develop internal bleeding and horses lose co-ordination.


Bracken fern shoots

Bracken fern shoots

A Bracken fern's kuru, it is a new unfurling frond. A kuru is an integral symbol in Māori art, carving and tattooing, where it symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace. Its shape "conveys the idea of perpetual movement," while the inner coil "suggests returning to the point of origin"


Underside of a frond

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/