Pteridium esculentum


Pteridium: like Pteris; a fern known to the ancient Greeks; from the Greek pteris
esculentum: edible; from the Latin esca and edere; in recognition of its value to the maori as a food plant

Common Name(s)

bracken, rarauhe, bracken fern

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Pteridium esculentum (G. Forst.) Cockayne



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class



Pteridium aquilinum var. esculentum (G.Forst.) Kuhn


Indigenous: New Zealand: Kermadec (Raoul Island only), North, South, Stewart, Chatham and Antipodes Islands. Also South East Asia, Australia, Lord Howe, Norfolk Islands extending into western Oceania.


Common in mainly seral habitats from the coast to the low alpine zone.


Fern with deeply rooted, subterranean rhizomes. Stipes and rachis chestnut brown at base, yellow-brown to russet at apex, woody, grooved, smooth, bearing sparse non-glandular hairs or ± glabrous stipe 0.2-1.3(-2.0) m or more long, 3-8(-15) mm diameter, woody. Lamina broadly elliptic or broadly ovate, 0.25-1.5-1.8 × 0.2-1.0-1.4 m wide, 3-4-pinnate at base, dark green (often glaucescent) above, paler beneath, adaxially glabrous, abaxially with sparse red-brown hairs on midribs and dense colourless appressed non-glandular hairs along veins. Longest pinnae arising at narrow angles; longest 150-650 × 80-400 mm. Secondary pinnae arising at narrow angles; longest 50-260 × 15-130 mm; basal one often much-reduced; midribs of primary and secondary pinnae narrowly winged. Tertiary pinnae decreasing markedly in length along secondary pinnae; longest 7-70 × 2-20 mm, with winged midribs. Quaternary pinnae to 12 × 4 mm; ultimate pinnules linear, straight, acute, entire, adnate and decurrent on 1 side. Sori continuous along pinna margin. Indusium > 0.2 mm wide, membranous, entire, glabrous. Spores dark yellow to orange yellow., granulose.

Similar Taxa

A distinctive species which could not be confused with any other indigenous, naturalised or exotic fern present in New Zealand.


None (spore bearing)

Flower Colours

No Flowers


None (spore bearing)

Propagation Technique

Despite its weedy nature this species is actually surprisingly difficult to grow from spores and/or transplants of young or mature plants. Best results seem to be from plants which spontaneously arise as pot contaminants within nurseries.


Not Threatened.

Chromosome No.

2n = 104

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Rarely if ever, deliberately cultivated. Does not appear to be commercially available.


Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 11 January 2011. Description adapted from Brownsey (1998) and Brownsey & Smith-Dodsworth (2000).

References and further reading

Brownsey, P.J. 1998: Dennstaedtiaceae: Flora of Australia 48: 214-228.

Brownsey, P.J.; Smith-Dodsworth, J.C. 2000: New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants. Auckland, David Bateman

This page last updated on 13 Jan 2014