New Zealand is world famous for its ferny character—early enthusiasts were called ‘ferniacs’! They range in form from giant trees 20 m tall with fronds 5 m long (the mamaku, common in these gullies) to minute filmy ferns just 1 cm tall, which are common on wet banks along the track. The silver fern (ponga) is our national emblem. Ferns range in habitat from open water to dry hot rocks. New Zealand has some 250 species.
Ferns are most common in wet gullies because part of their life-cycle requires water for sperms to swim in. Cyathea Cove is named after its tree ferns. Some ferns form clumps like species of Blechnum and Asplenium, while other spread by underground stems forming patches, like the filmy ferns Hymenophyllum and bracken fern. Some grow only on trees, especially tree ferns, such as the strange ancient fern Tmesipteris.
Around the wetland at Anchorage is tangle fern forming dense mounds. Common in the dry kānuka forest is a climbing fern relative called Lycopodium, a survivor from the Ancient fern forests of the Carboniferous era when much of the world’s coal was formed.