Black Tree Fern

Cyathea medullaris

Black Tree Fern / Mamaku

ABOUT:
The broadest of the native tree ferns, with black-stalked fronds up to 5m long. The dark brown fur on leaf stems can itch like crazy.
Early Māori cooked and ate the inner stem, which apparently is soft, sweet and highly nutritious.

IDENTIFY:     
5m high x 4m wide in cultivation. The only native tree fern to prefer full sunlight. The black thin trunk develops a hexagonal pattern as old fronds fall away. The fronds arch upward from the crown.

USE:
Effective in adding to a tropical look. Creates a great contrast to plants with bold foliage. Not commonly used in formal planting, but would make an eye-catching building frontage as long as old fronds are cleared away.

PLANT:
Best planted where roots are kept shaded and damp. Shelter from frosts and cold winds when young.

SIMILAR TO:     
Gully Tree Fern (Cyathea cunninghamii) – fronds are angled upward, or horizontal – never arching downward.
Silver Fern (Cyathea dealbata) – vibrant white underside of fronds.
Soft Tree Fern – (Cyathea smithii) – fronds are very soft to touch. Stems of dead fronds hang like a skirt.
Wheki (Dicksonia squarrosa) – trunk is covered in erect frond bases from where dead fronds have broken off. These are intertwined with brown-black rootlets.
Wheki Ponga (Dicksonia fibrosa) – trunk is covered in dense, interwoven red-brown rootlets. Entire dead fronds hang like a skirt.

MORE INFO:
Landcare Research: Māori Plant Use – Mamaku
Taranaki Educational Resource – Black Tree Fern
NZ Plant Conservation Network – Cyathea medullaris
Forest Ferns – Cyathea meduallaris

 

 

 

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