FERTILE AND STERILE FRONDS LEAF-LIKE AND SIMILAR;
Pteris esculenta, a variety of our Brake, is said to have been one of the chief articles of food in New Zealand. It was called "fern-root," and in Dr. Thompson's "Story of New Zealand" is spoken of as follows: "This food is celebrated in song, and the young women, in laying before travellers baskets of cooked fern-root, chant: 'What shall be our food? Shall shellfish and fern-root? That is the root of the earth; that is the food to satisfy a man; the tongues grow by reason of the licking, as if it were the tongue of a dog.'"
The titles Brake and Bracken are not always confined to their lawful owner. Frequently they are applied to any large ferns, such as the Osmundas, or even to such superficially fern-like plants as Myrica asplenifolia, the so-called sweet fern.
There is a difference of opinion as to the origin of the plant's scientific name, which signifies eagle wing. Some suppose it to be derived from the outline of the heraldic eagle which has been seen by the imaginative in a cross-section of the young stalk. It seems more likely that a resemblance has been fancied between the spreading frond and the plumage of an eagle.