NZ FLAG FACT NUMBER 52
In 1853, while the HMS Sparrow was berthed in New Plymouth, sailors with the Royal Navy challenged the local army garrison to a match involving rifle shooting. The event took place at Rewa Rewa Rifle Range, and just before it began, the New Zealand shooters spotted some silver fern, picked it, and pinned the leaves to their pockets as a good luck charm. The charm brought success, as the army garrison won the competition. Its members apparently said: ‘The silver fern has brought us luck and we will carry on using it.
During the nineteenth century, the silver fern was also used in verse and paintings by famed watercolourist, Alfred Sharpe. Sharpe, regarded as one of the pioneer artists of New Zealand, prolific and successful, producing around 150 watercolours depicting the New Zealand landscape from the 1860s to the 1880s, also wrote poetry. One of his poems, titled A Night in the Forest, contained these lines:
A silver fern outspreading,
In mass of lace like threading,
Throughout its frondings wide,
Faint phosphorescence showers,
On the kie kie flowers, from its silv’ry underside.
From New Zealand Flag Facts by historian Malcolm Mulholland. Read more at: