Bracken is a common fern found in open sites throughout New Zealand. Cattle and horses grazing on young bracken fronds are susceptible to poisoning. Cattle develop internal bleeding and horses lose co-ordination. The creeping rhizome (underground stem) was an important food for Māori, who harvested it in late winter. They pounded roasted rhizomes to extract a starchy flour. The young shoots were also eaten. It is now known that bracken contains chemicals that cause cancer, and should not be eaten at all.
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Photograph by Iona Wassilieff
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