Cyathea dealbata

"Silver Fern" redirects here. For other uses, see Silver Fern (disambiguation).
Silver fern
Frond, showing silver underside
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Pteridopsida
Order: Cyatheales
Family: Cyatheaceae
Genus: Cyathea
Subgenus: Cyathea
Section: Alsophila
Species: C. dealbata
Binomial name
Cyathea dealbata
(G. Forster) Swartz, 1801
  • Polypodium dealbatum G. Forster, 1786
  • Cyathea tricolor Colenso, 1883
  • Alsophila tricolor (Colenso) Tryon, 1970

Cyathea dealbata, also known as the silver tree-fern[1] or silver fern, or as ponga /ˈpɒŋə/ or punga /ˈpʌŋə/ (from Māori kaponga or ponga), is a species of medium-sized tree fern, endemic to New Zealand.[2] It is a symbol commonly associated with the country both overseas and by New Zealanders themselves.[3]

This fern is known to grow to heights of 10 m or more (though it occasionally takes a rare creeping form). The crown is dense, and the fronds tend to be about 4 m long and have a silver-white colouration on the undersides. This distinctive silver colouration has made them useful for laying along tracks for night walking. The scales are a dark brown and are often twisted and glossy.[4]

Arriving relatively late in New Zealand's history during the Pliocene epoch[5] (around 5.0–1.8 million years ago), the silver fern occurs on the main islands of New Zealand and on the Chatham Islands to the east, mostly in the subcanopy areas of drier forests and in open scrub. It is known to grow well in well-drained humus, and once established, it will tolerate drier conditions. It does best when sheltered from winds and should be protected from frost.

In culture

In short, the fern has become one of the most widely recognised symbols of New Zealand, next to the Kiwi, though it is not an official symbol.[3]

The official silver fern flag proposal of the 2015 flag referendum

Use in sport

The silver fern is widely used as a symbol by New Zealand national sports teams in various stylised forms. "Silver Ferns" is the name of the national netball team, and most other national women's sports teams have nicknames based on the term "Ferns", such as Black Ferns (women's rugby union), Tall Ferns (women's basketball) and Football Ferns (women's association football).[3]

National sport teams using the silver fern include:

The silver fern is also extensively used as part of the official symbols of New Zealand Olympics teams.



  1. "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. The Māori word ponga, pronounced [ˈpɔŋa], has been borrowed into New Zealand English as a generic term for tree ferns. It is also used to refer to tree fern logs when used for landscaping purposes. English speakers generally pronounce the word /ˈpʌŋə/ PUNG-a.
  3. 1 2 3 "Government and nation - National animal and flower". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  4. Large, M. F.; Braggins, J. F. (2004). Tree Ferns. Timber Press, Inc. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0-88192-630-2.
  5. Parsons, Stuart; et al. (2006). Biology Aotearoa. Pearson Education New Zealand. ISBN 1-877268-00-3.
  6. "NZRU bid for silver fern rights thrown out". New Zealand Herald. 14 December 2005. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  7. "McCully and IRB square off over fern". New Zealand Herald. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
External identifiers for Cyathea dealbata
Encyclopedia of Life 6089714
NCBI 544599
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