Monday, January 17, 2011
The Silver Fern - more than a plant
I'm not a botanist. In fact, at the risk of sounding like a heather heathen, I'm just not that interested in plants.
Still, no blog about New Zealand would be complete without talking at least once about the silver fern. It is the country's iconic symbol, featuring in the alternative flag and in just about everything else - including the name of the highly successful netball team. (No, having already declined to explain the rules of cricket, I'm certainly not going to talk about netball.)
When I first arrived in New Zealand, I thought the silver fern was just like Scotland's bracken. But these plants can grow to 30 feet, with silvery fronds of up to 12 feet. It is everywhere in the nature and the culture of New Zealand. The silver fern was first used as a military insignia during the South African war at the turn of 19th Century.
The fronds unfurl like a lizard's tongue as they grow. Known by the Maori term Koru, this spiral shape of the young frond is a symbol of rebirth, of new life and strength. It is another image that is deeply imbedded in the culture of the land - not to mention T-shirt world.
As you can see from the photos, the silver fern is a magnificent plant and the ultimate symbol of New Zealand. And, as that other famous botanist, Forrest Gump, would say, "That's all I've got to say about that."