Fabulous Ferns

Tree ferns near Franz Josef Glacier

Tree ferns near Franz Josef Glacier

New Zealand has over 200 species of fern, 40% of which are endemic (found nowhere else on Earth). This diversity is unusually high for a temperate region—ferns are largely tropical.

New Zealand ferns include some of my absolute favourites—the filmy ferns, with leaves so thin, they’re translucent. There are also a wide range of more ordinary ferns, and the not-so-ordinary hen and chicken fern, which produces little plantlets from its leaf tips.

But of course, the most impressive and iconic of New Zealand ferns are the tree ferns, growing up to 20 metres tall.

Translucent filmy fern

Translucent filmy fern

There are ten species of tree fern in New Zealand, and on the soggy West Coast of the South Island, they form a sizeable component of the forest. Their dominance makes the forest look like what I imagine forests looked like in the Jurassic Period, before flowering plants came to dominate the landscape.

If you use your imagination, you can almost see a sauropod raise its head to look around at the sound of your footsteps.