Todea barbara

Common Name(s)

Royal Fern, Hard todea, King fern

Current Conservation Status

2018 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

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

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered
2009 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered


2012 - SO
2009 - SO


Todea barbara (L.) T. Moore



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class



Acrostichum barbarum L., Osmunda barbara Thunberg, Todea africana Willd.


Indigenous. In New Zealand confined to the North Island, where it grows on the Poor Knights Islands and locally from Te Paki south to about Dargaville and the Bay of Islands. Common in South Africa and Australia.


Coastal to lowland areas. A species of gumland scrub, coastal shrublands, and streamside margins in open forest, occasionally found on coastal cliffs or on serpentinite. Often found on bare claybanks or fringing sinkholes in gumland scrub.


Extremely, robust, coriaceous ferns producing trunks up to 1 m tall. Stipes smooth, 150–600 mm, yellow brown, with ear–like lobes at base. Fronds persistent, coriaceous, 0.25–0.65 × 1.2–3.5 m, ovate, elliptic to lanceolate, 1-pinnate-pinnatifid to 2-pinnate, glabrous or finely pubescent along veins, glossy, upper surface pale green, yellow-green to golden yellow, undersides similar but paler. Pinnae 20–60 × 4–10 mm, lanceolate, narrowly oblong, to ovate; pinnules broadly attached at base, 15–80 × 4–9 mm, oblong-elliptic, apex acute, margins toothed; sporogenous pinnae occasionally shorter than sterile ones, restricted to lower part of frond, on lower pinnules of primary pinnae, at first in discrete groups, then confluent, green turning reddish brown.

Similar Taxa

A well marked species quite unlike any other indigenous or cultivated species of fern present in New Zealand. However, there has been some confusion with the introduced royal fern, Osmunda regalis L., perhaps because both species share the same vernacular. Osmunda is an aggressive species, which is readily distinguished from Todea by the deciduous habit, softer pale-green to blue-green fronds, and by the fertile portion of the frond occurring as a distinct branchlet at the apex of the frond.


None (spore producing)

Flower Colours

No Flowers


None (spore producing)

Propagation Technique

Very easily grown in any sunny, frost-free site. Will tolerant quite extreme conditions including very dry and very wet habitats but does best in a sunny, free draining soil.


Threatened by habitat loss through land clearance and competition from weeds such as Hakea spp. and pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana (Schult. et Schult.f. ) Asch. et Graebn.). Some populations have been eliminated by people collecting plants for the horticultural trade. At least one major population, that on Aorangi Island, Poor Knights Island group is threatened by natural succession from open shrubland to coastal forest.

Chromosome No.

2n = 44

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family



Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 August 2003. Description based on Chinnock (1998) but see also de Lange et al. (2010)

References and further reading

Chinnock, R.J. 1998: Osmundaceae. Pp. 112–115.Flora of Australia 48: Ferns, Gymnosperms and Allied Groups. Melbourne: ABRS/CSIRO Australia.

de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

This page last updated on 19 Dec 2014