Ptisana salicina


Ptisana: From the Latin ptisana 'barley grains', in reference to the fused sporangia of the fern have the appearance of pearl barley
salicina: willow-like

Common Name(s)

King fern, Para, Tawhiti para, Horseshoe fern

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Declining

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Declining
2004 - Serious Decline


2012 - SO
2009 - SO


Ptisana salicina (J.E.Sm.) Murdock



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class



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 primary 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.

Similar Taxa



Specimens of suitable age may produce sporangia at any time.

Flower Colours

No Flowers

Propagation Technique

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.

Chromosome No.

2n = 78

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Periodically offered by most commercial garden centres. Plants are held by several specialist native plant nurseries.


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 August 2003.

References and further reading

Murdock, A.G. 2008: A taxonomic revision of the eusporangiate fern family Marattiaceae, with description of the new genus Ptisana. Taxon 57(3): 737-755

This page last updated on 9 Jun 2015