Māori name: Ponga, Kaponga, Katote

English name: Silver fern

Scientific name: Cyathea dealbata

NZ Status: Endemic

Conservation Status (NZTCS): Non threatened

Found: These tree ferns are usually found in dry or open-air areas in lowland to lower mountain forest throughout the North Island. In the South Island ponga is largely absent from the wetter west and south, preferring sites with better drainage. 

Did you know? The silver fern is an iconic symbol in New Zealand. It is found only within forests in Aotearoa but can also be spotted on our coat of arms, our sports teams, our products, and even our planes. 

Photo Credit: Allison Buchan

The silver tree fern is a species of medium-sized tree fern, endemic (not found naturally anywhere else) to New Zealand. It arrived relatively late in New Zealand’s history during the Pliocene epoch (around 5 – 1.8 million years ago).

The silver is found only on the undersides of mature ponga fronds. The silvery-white undersides catch the moonlight, creating a pathway of luminous arrows to guide travelers from darkness to safety.

This iconic fern shows up early to areas that have been cleared and unlike other tree ferns, it is quite happy in drier places. You might not spot its distinctive silver underside immediately though, as it can take many years for the colour to build up.

In rongoā Māori/Māori medicine ponga gum is taken to evict parasites worming through our intestines, and the pith (the soft cellular tissue) is known as an antiseptic.

Look for them: At ZEALANDIA, the most prominent ponga can be seen alongside Te Māhanga Track.