Ptisana: From the Latin ptisana 'barley grains', in reference to the fused sporangia of the fern have the appearance of pearl barley
King fern, Para, Tawhiti para, Horseshoe fern
Ptisana salicina (J.E.Sm.) Murdock
Vascular - Native
Marattia salicina J.E. Sm.; Marattia fraxinea Smith, Marattia fraxinea sensu J.B.Armstr.
Indigenous to New Zealand and the South Pacific (possibly elsewhere). In New Zealand it is found throughout the north-western half of the North Island from inland Wanganui northwards. The Waikato is probably its stronghold where it is known from many remnants and forested areas in the west.
Favouring lowland, karst habitats (cave entrances and tomo shafts) and dark stream sides, often amongst supplejack (Ripogonum scandens) and parataniwha (Elatostema rugosum).
A large, robust fern with fronds to 5 m tall arising from a stout, starchy base that was a traditional food for the Maori. The cane-like leaf stalks are green, 1–3 m long, and have a large basal, ear-like lobe that protects the uncoiling frond. The dark glossy green (or yellow-green in stressed sites) fronds are up to 4 m long by 2 m wide. The frond pinnules are entire, oblong, strap-like, and taper towards the tip. Midribs of the secondary pinnae are swollen at the junction with the main stem. The spores are arranged in distinctive boat-shaped sori. The juvenile fronds are less robust, wilting easily on exposure to sunlight, with the strap-like pinnules often lobed or serrated. An unusual form with crested tips to the adult pinnules is sometimes found in the wild around the Kawhia area.
Specimens of suitable age may produce sporangia at any time.
Main Flower Colour
Difficult. Can be grown from spores but very slow.
Feral and domestic stock, wild pig and goat browse are serious threats throughout its range. Indeed large specimens are only found where there has been intensive animal control, in inaccessible cave and tomo entrances or in steep-walled limestone gorges. Aside from animals the most serious threat to this species comes from plant collectors who have been responsible for the recent loss of several large, reasonably accessible populations near Kawhia.
2n = 78
Where To Buy
Periodically offered by most commercial garden centres. Plants are held by several specialist native plant nurseries.
This page last updated on 18 Jan 2010