male fernMale fern

Common name: Male fern
Botanical name: Dryopteris filix-mas
Management category: Sustained control - Rule 5a applies

Originally from Europe, Asia and North America. It was introduced to New Zealand as an ornamental species and became naturalised in 1958.

Why is it a pest?

  • Male fern outcompetes and replaces native fern and groundcover, it affects the regeneration of native plants.
  • It can invade relatively intact native forest

Where is it found?

  • Often found on streamsides, open scrub and in damp forests. It prefers damp shaded areas in the understorey of forests.
  • It reproduces via spores which can be spread via water, soil and wind. Spores ripen August to November.

What does it look like?

  • An erect fern with fronds up to 1.5m in length.
  • Dark green above and pale green below and its stalks are covered in orange/brown scales.
  • The bipinnate (twice divided) leaves are toothed with a rounded edge.

What are the rules?

Sustained control

Sustained Control pests are well established in the region and preventing the spread is no longer a realistic objective. Management focuses on reducing general impacts of the pest. Landowners/occupiers are responsible for the control of these pest species on their land. Council may enforce control.

Under rule 5a of the RPMP landowners/occupiers must destroy this pest if required by a written direction from an authorised person unless a property specific pest management agreement has been agreed and signed between the occupier and the Council.

Criteria to meet Rule 5A include when the species is being actively managed by council, other agency and or community group, on an adjacent property. See the Regional Pest Management Plan 2020-2030 rules for Sustained control pests for more information.

How do you get rid of it?

Little information is available of the effective control of male fern. Digging the plants out and disposing in a manner that contains the spores is effective. Spraying with Metsulfuron is proven effective on many other fern species so likely to work on male fern.

  • Dig out
  • Spraying

Spray during the active growing season, follow-up control to manage seedlings will probably be required.


CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide, PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and directions for the purchase, use and storage of the product, are followed and adhered to.

Read more on pest control advice, information and regulations.