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

Osmunda regalis (Royal fern)

Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Embryophyta
(unranked): Tracheophyta
(unranked): euphyllophytes
Class: Polypodiopsida
Subclass: Polypodiidae
Order: Osmundales
Family: Osmundaceae
Genus: Osmunda
Species: O. regalis
Scientific name: Osmunda regalis
Common name: Royal fern, Flowering fern
     Pest plant

Osmunda regalis is a species of deciduous fern, native to Europe, Africa and Asia. The species is sometimes known as the flowering fern due to the appearance of its brown, fertile fronds. In New Zealand, it is thought that the spores may have been accidentally introduced from Europe with grass seed. Osmunda regalis is now classed as an invasive fern. At present found only in the North Island. It is present in Northland, Auckland, Volcanic Plateau and isolated records south to Whangamomona in Taranaki. It is abundant in the Waikato and Hauraki Plains areas. It has an altitude range of 0-460m and its habitats are swampy areas, drains, stream, river and lakesides, moist bluffs and ledges.

Osmunda regalis typically grows in clumps up to 1 m tall, but with constant moisture can reach 2 m in height. The leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground. When mature it has a thick erect trunk that is covered with persistent bases of the fronds, and the plants die back to the trunk during winter.
It has broad fronds that are 20–150 cm long but sometimes they can reach 3 m. The fronds have large, well-separated leaflets. The outer fronds have sterile leaflets and the convoluted inner fronds are fertile and they rise above the sterile fronds looking somewhat like a crown, hence the one of the common names ‘Royal fern’.
These fronds typically turn yellow to brown in autumn.The spores are located in brown, tassel-like, clusters at the top of the fertile fronds.


The brown clusters at the top of the fertile fronds that hold the spores.

A spore-laden cluster of a fertile frond.

A young sterile frond.

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