Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ferns as tall as trees

with 58 comments

Tree Ferns from Below 3471

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A visitor to New Zealand can’t help noticing how many native ferns there are and how large they can get. It’s not an exaggeration to say that some grow as tall as trees, and people even refer to them as tree ferns. I photographed the ones in today’s picture, which were perhaps two or three times my height, in the shade of the forest at the Parry Kauri Park in Warkworth*, in the northern part of the North Island, on the afternoon of February 6. Kiwis (as the inhabitants of New Zealand are known) will recognize that as Waitangi Day, the national holiday, and in fact earlier in the day our hosts had taken us to attend the festivities at Waitangi itself.

* New Zealand English generally drops an r that closes a syllable or that’s part of a syllable-final consonant cluster, so Warkworth sounds to American ears as if it’s Walkworth, which is as appropriate for the site of a nature park as the name Wordsworth is for a great poet.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2015 at 5:59 AM

58 Responses

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  1. Excellent shot Steve. I love tree ferns – they are like natural parasols. And we English pronounce Warkworth the same way – funnily I just wrote a post including that place (the English one) 🙂


    March 14, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    • Thanks, Jude. I’d thought about pointing out the resemblance of these tree ferns to parasols but I decided to wait and see if a commenter made the comparison. You did, and in the very first comment.

      That’s a happy coincidence about the two Warkworths, both of which are worth a walk. Let’s hope you make it to the one in New Zealand as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 8:10 AM

      • I am taking note of where you have been Steve 🙂


        March 14, 2015 at 8:48 AM

        • And I of where you’ve been. The only piece of Britain I’ve seen is London, so I’m long overdue for some other parts of the country.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 14, 2015 at 8:53 AM

  2. wow, looks wonderful


    March 14, 2015 at 6:30 AM

  3. Magnificent! I could stare at this photo for hours, gazing “up” through the fronds…


    March 14, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    • Of all the good things I saw in Aotearoa, I’d say the tree ferns and the seacoast left the greatest impressions. As an artist, you’d find plenty of inspiration in both.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 8:19 AM

      • I would indeed. If I were to be bitten by the travel bug, I’ve thought that would be the place I’d like to see.


        March 14, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        • When I was out photographing in the Texas countryside yesterday I found some travel bugs. I’ll send you a few to put on your arm in hopes they’ll bite you.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 14, 2015 at 8:46 AM

  4. That’s quite a visual treat.


    March 14, 2015 at 8:59 AM

  5. Love this shot!


    March 14, 2015 at 10:45 AM

  6. Oh wow! That is just glorious 🙂 I just love tree ferns!

  7. I love this photo. I love taking photos of ferns looking up but the tree ferns aren’t as tall where I live. Up north the native bush is a lot more established as in centuries old.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 14, 2015 at 12:45 PM

    • I loved looking up at tall tree ferns, as here, but I also liked being at a higher point and looking down into the concave canopies of tree ferns. You may not have as much native bush where you are as further north, but you’re fortunate that that region is within a day’s drive; I wish I could say the same.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 3:34 PM

  8. So enjoyed the picture! I’ve never seen such thing before.


    March 14, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    • I hadn’t either, and I kept enjoying it whenever I encountered it. In fact I sought out areas of native bush so I could have more experiences of that type.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 3:36 PM

  9. These are great…like nature’s own kaleidoscopes.

    Steve Gingold

    March 14, 2015 at 5:53 PM

    • That’s still another take, one that neither I nor anyone else here seems to have imagined: a keleidoscope. Even though the ferns didn’t go round, I did somewhat as I composed my pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 8:54 PM

  10. Just amazing! You always provide such gorgeous architectural images of Nature. I love the primordial ferns, especially. You’re close to my home! 😄


    March 14, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    • These ferns brought a complex architecture all their own. One look up into that canopy and I was hooked.

      I believe you’re still in Florida, so I interpret your last sentence as meaning close to your home in a metaphorical way (though maybe in a ferny way as well).

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 8:59 PM

  11. Beautiful and other-worldly! Great photos.

  12. That has to be the most beautiful image of a tree fern that I’ve ever seen. There’s so much order in the placement of the fronds… you surely combed them into precision before you took the photo?!! (Ja! I know better!) Seriously, you scored top marks!

    My friends in Mindo (Ecuador) have lots of tree ferns on their very wild 80-hectare property. I love standing beneath them and looking skyward. Your photo makes me want to play Georgia O’Keeffe and tip my brush to the Lawrence Tree.

    (It took all day to pull the image back up and comment, but the reward is viewing all of the comments! Where’s Linda, btw?!! She’ll have something witty to say about this lovely fern!)

  13. Beautiful. Like twirling parasols. Or like the way the trees and sky whirl when you turn round and round until you are too giddy to stay upright. Were you upright when you took this photo?


    March 14, 2015 at 9:33 PM

    • I was standing and looking more or less straight up with the camera’s viewfinder to my eye. In that posture I did rotate some to compose the picture, but nowhere near enough to get giddy, except figuratively from the excitement of seeing these tree ferns overhead. What a sight it was!

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2015 at 10:32 PM

  14. beautiful !!!


    March 15, 2015 at 5:46 AM

  15. […] in the northern part of the North Island, on the afternoon of February 6. Note the various tree ferns near the palm (and if I seem to be above some of them, it’s because I was indeed standing at […]

  16. I have seen trees shot like this many times but here the tree ferns are so different you have created a very unique shot!


    March 15, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    • You make a good point: I’ve seen upward shots of trees many times too, but the different arrangement of the foliage atop the ferns gives the image quite a different feel.

      By the way, bush is the term New Zealanders use for what many of the rest of us call a forest.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2015 at 7:17 AM

  17. I second the comment and your response above–the shot from underneath that arrangement of foliage makes for a great photograph. I look forward to your continued NZ reportage. Looks like it was a wonderful trip.

    Susan Scheid

    March 15, 2015 at 1:07 PM

    • Hi, Susan. Yes, the view looking up into those ferny parasols was great, different from anything I remember. NZ made for a wonderful trip, that’s for sure, as you’ll continue to see in the weeks ahead.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2015 at 1:18 PM

  18. Just wonderful, Steve. There’s nothing quite like a chance to walk the forest floor and gaze up to study these prehistoric wonders. The feeling that one has been magically miniaturized is nearly overpowering.


    March 15, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    • You can appreciate this, Gary, having experienced it yourself. New Zealand travel posters, brochures, and tourist websites should have pictures like this to entice people to visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2015 at 5:05 PM

  19. Esta fotografía es realmente maravillosa.

  20. I had no idea such things existed. Tree ferns. it sounds like an oxymoron to someone raised with maidenhair and fiddleheads. When I saw the photo, I felt as I did the first time I saw the redwoods, and my immediate thought was, “I want to go there.”

    The combination of sunlight, sky, and the beautifully symmetric circles make me think of the Sufi dervishes. While the ferns can’t spin, I can imagine spinning beneath them in utter delight.


    March 15, 2015 at 7:19 PM

    • I hadn’t known they existed either, and you’re right that it sounds like a contradiction for anyone used to the little ferns we have in Texas. Of course I’ll encourage you to follow your impulse and go to New Zealand, though I learned from Lisa’s comment above that there are tree ferns in Ecuador, which is closer. Better yet, you should visit both places.

      To parasols, umbrellas, and kaleidoscopes, your imagination has now added Sufi dervishes. So many things that make the world go round.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2015 at 7:44 PM

  21. WOW – these are fantastic


    March 16, 2015 at 6:11 AM

  22. Joanna spent a semester in Tasmania when she was in College … to this day she talks about the tree ferns! You’ve done well with the natural geometry here.

    Pairodox Farm

    March 17, 2015 at 6:10 PM

    • That’s an apt phrase: natural geometry. I can understand, even after just my few weeks in New Zealand, why Joanna would keep talking about tree ferns all these years later.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2015 at 6:51 PM

  23. Lovely post


    January 24, 2022 at 6:30 AM

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