bracken, rarauhe, bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum var. esculentum (G.Forst.) Kuhn
Vascular – Native
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.
2n = 104
Current conservation status
The threat classification status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | Not Threatened | Qualifiers: SO
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | Not Threatened
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
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.
Wetland plant indicator status rating
Information derived from the revised national wetland plant list prepared to assist councils in delineating and monitoring wetlands (Clarkson et al., 2021 Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research Contract Report LC3975 for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council). The national plant list categorises plants by the extent to which they are found in wetlands and not ‘drylands’. The indicator status ratings are OBL (obligate wetland), FACW (facultative wetland), FAC (facultative), FACU (facultative upland), and UPL (obligate upland).
FACU: Facultative Upland
Occasionally is a hydrophyte but usually occurs in uplands (non-wetlands).
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.
A distinctive species which could not be confused with any other indigenous, naturalised or exotic fern present in New Zealand.
None (spore bearing)
None (spore bearing)
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.
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
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
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Pteridium esculentum Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/pteridium-esculentum/ (Date website was queried)