Fern Species in Marlborough
Ferns are a kind of vascular plant that reproduce via spores rather than seeds, and go through two distinct phases in their lifecycle including the commonly recognised sporophyte generation, and a small, shorter lived gametophyte form that produces sperm and eggs. Ferns require water in order to reproduce, but once sporophytes are established, some can survive harsh environments, and many can be found growing as epiphytes on trees and shrubs, or sometimes even on artificial structures.
New Zealand has 226 indigenous fern species which is modest compared to a number of other countries, however the abundance and wide distribution of ferns in New Zealand ecosystems makes up for the modest range of varieties. Ferns can be found from coastal areas to all but the highest alpine environments. Over 100 species of ferns can be found throughout Marlborough from forest varieties in the temperate rainforests of the Marlborough Sounds, to the dry east coast, up to alpine regions. many ferns are adapted to shady environments, and can often be found on the forest floor in native bush. Some species have self-introduced into urban environments, growing on artificial structures given the opportunity. In addition to native ferns, a number of ferns have been introduced to New Zealand deliberately as garden plants, or accidentally. Some of these are capable of becoming weedy, displacing native plants.
Fern roots of some species were eaten by Māori while others had medicinal properties. The koru design associated with an unfurling fern frond and the silver fern Cyathea dealbata (found throughout the Marlborough Sounds) are as iconic as kiwi in terms of national symbols.
Tip: If you're trying to identify a fern species, look under the fronds for a spore pattern or scales and photograph this as well as the top of the fronds if you can, as some similar fern species can be identified by their spore patterns.