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


Silver Fern (Cyathea dealbata)

Kingdom :Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Pteridopsida
Order : Cyatheales
Family: Cyatheaceae
Genus: Cyathea
Subgenus: Cyathea
Section: Alsophila
Species: C. dealbata
Binomial name  Cyathea dealbata
Synonyms: Polypodium dealbatum, Cyathea tricolour, Cyathea dealbata var. tricolour, Alsophila tricolour, Hemitelia falciloba, Cyathea falciloba
Common name: Silver fern, Kaponga, kātote;

Cyathea dealbata is a species of medium-sized tree fern, endemic to New Zealand. The word dealbatus in the species name is from the Latin dealbatus (covered with a white powder), a reference to the distinctive white undersides of the fronds.
Distribution is the ThreeKingsIslands, Chatham Islands, NorthIsland: Northland, Auckland, Volcanic Plateau, Gisborne, Taranaki, southern NorthIsland. In the South Island: Western Nelson, Sounds-Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago. Its altitudinal range: 0–900 m.  Cyathea dealbata occurs as a sub-canopy species under kauri, podocarp, beech and broadleaved forests, and in kānuka and mānuka scrub, usually in drier areas. It is occasionally found on bush margins and in more open areas.
This fern grows to 12 m tall and 160–450 mm in diameter.  The trunk is covered in light brown or white projecting stipe bases; bearing scales near the apex. It occasionally takes a rare creeping form. The crown is dense, and the fronds tend to be about 4 m long and have a distinctive silver-white colouration on the undersides. This silver colouration has made them useful for laying along tracks for night walking. The mature trunk is usually lacking dead fronts though there are rare example where they are present.

This fern is a symbol commonly associated with New Zealand both overseas and by New Zealanders. The silver fern was trademarked as early as 1885 and has long been used as a logo on dairy products. It is also used by sporting teams from New Zealand and is a logo for many other organisations. It is in the Coat of arms of New Zealand.

New Zealand Coat of Arms

A mature plant with fronds held horizontally. The distinctive silver white colour of the undersides of the fronds.


A juvenile silver fern



The underside of a frond of Cyathea dealbata, the Silver Fern