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


Black Tree Fern (Cyathea medullaris)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Pteridopsida
Order: Cyatheales
Family: Cyatheaceae
Genus: Cyathea
Subgenus: Sphaeropteris
Section: Sphaeropteris
Species: C. medullaris
Binomial name: Cyathea medullaris
Common name: Black tree fern, Mamaku

Mamaku tree ferns grow in damp gullies throughout New Zealand. Reaching 20 metres in height, they have oval-shaped frond scars on the trunk. The white pith of the trunk and the koru (new shoots) are edible, although slimy when first cut. Maori stripped the trunk’s outer layers so the slime could dry or drain away. The plant was then cut down and cooked whole. Alternatively, koru (new shoots) were hung to dry. Baking was the preferred way to cook mamaku, to separate the stringy fibres from the flesh. Although the taste is bland, the nutritional value is high.





Fronds are up to 5 m in length and arch upward from the crown of the plant.

Young frond, rachis and stipe - The axis (rachis) and stipe (stalk) of the young frond has a dense covering of scales which drop away as the frond expands. 


Topside of frond.The frond axis (rachis) bears a series of leaflets (pinnae) left and right.
Each of these is further divided into smaller leaflets so that the frond is 3-pinnate.


Underside of frond of an sterile frond


The underside of a fertile frond


Leaflet, scales 
Small, 0.5-1.5 mm long, scales with spiny margins are found on the lower surface of the frond leaflets.




A damaged frond will 'wept' sap for days afterwards trying to heal its self.