Story: Poisonous plants and fungi

Bracken fern

Bracken fern

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.

Using this item

Private collection
Photograph by Iona Wassilieff

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Maggy Wassilieff, 'Poisonous plants and fungi - Poisonous plants used for food', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 July 2024)

Story by Maggy Wassilieff, published 24 Sep 2007