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New Zealand - The Silver Fern and Other Emblems

Last modified: 2006-07-15 by sam lockton
Keywords: plant: fern | silver fern | all blacks | kiwi | fighting kiwi | new zealand |
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The Silver Fern

The Silver Fern is widely used in New Zealand to signify New Zealandness. It is incorporated in the badges of most Army units, and more importantly it forms the wreath surrounding the central badge on Regimental Colours (equivalent to the UK Union Wreath and the Canadian “autumnal maple leaves”).
Todd Mills, 11 Nov 1997

I believe the rugby All Blacks first played overseas (NSW) in 1884 when they wore a gold fern leaf on blue jerseys. In 1905 they changed to a silver fern on the now-famous all-black uniform.

NZ Army contingents first saw overseas service in the South African war of 1899-1902, and they wore fern leaf badges. By WWI the fern leaf was the predominant badge in the Army, much like the Canadian maple leaf, which served as the background for all units raised for the CEF. I don’t have good documentation on pre-1900 NZ Army badges, but fern leaves seem to have made their first appearance in the 1860s (maybe).

In the British Army, the Union Wreath (roses, thistles, shamrocks) surrounding a central device has long been a major feature of Regimental Colours. Around 1900 (I can’t find the exact date), this was changed in the Dominions to a wreath of a national plant (Canada = maple, Australia = wattle, South Africa = protea, New Zealand = fern).

Todd Mills, 07 Sep 1998

Silver Fern Flag

[ Fern leaf flag ] image by Pascal Gross, 7 September 1998

By reading the results of this poll [organized by FlagWire], it appear that people voting in favour of a new flag for New Zealand often mentioned the Black flag with the silver fern present on the rugby team (All Blacks) jersey.
Pascal Gross, 7 September 1998

Fern with lettering

[ Fern leaf with lettering ] image by António Martins, 26 April 2006

A flag with regular white lettering and silver fern on black, as shown at, is a popular design used by sport fans. Large image at
António Martins, 26 April 2006

Fern replacing Union Jack

You quite often see a flag at sporting events which is the current national flag with the Union Jack replaced by a silver fern on black, but I don't think many are really considering that as an alternative national flag.
James Dignan, 20 May 2006

Fighting Kiwi

[ Fighting Kiwi ] image by Jorge Candeias, 6 June 2001

A similar flag [to the boxing kangaroo] called the Fighting Kiwi has become popular in New Zealand, another country where the continued use of the Union jack is also in question. Neither of these animal flags, however, is a serious contender to replace the present national flags.
Jorge Candeias, quoting from [cra90], 6 June 2002