A large shrub 8–12 feet high, of erect sub-pyramidal growth; bark thin, pale; branchlets striated.
Leaves broadly lanceolate, 3–5½ inches long, 1–2 inches broad, mucronate, grossly and irregularly toothed at ends of lateral veins, teeth long subulate pointed, sub-membranaceous, rather dry, alternate, spreading, colour light-green, thickly covered above when young with long strigose loose woolly hairs,—hairs white, hoary, translucent, irregular in size and shape, branched, linear-lanceolate, broadest in middle, and tapering gradually to both ends,—and leaves densely covered below with closely-pressed white-brown cottony tomentum, which on the mid-rib and principal lateral veins is of a very much darker colour; lateral veins alternate at right-angles to mid-rib, conniving and coalescing within the margin; whole leaf closely filled with minute reticulated compound anastomosing veins; petioles 6–9 lines long, canaliculated, rather slender. Flowers axillary and sub-terminal in diffuse branching heads of loose corymbose panicles; heads numerous, small, crowded, 5–7 lines diameter, flowers of ray 8–14, white, patent, slightly recurved; involucre sub-campanulate, its scales in about three rows, lanceolate acute and densely woolly and tipped with black, each  involucre having a small linear bracteole close to its base; pappus numerous, white, pointed, not thickened at top, longer than involucre and shorter than the ray flowers; achenium (immature) glabrous, plain, not costate; peduncles from rhachis 1–2 inches long, always bearing an oblong obtuse bract close to their bases; pedicels 2–4 lines long, slender, generally with a linear bracteole at base or about the middle of pedicel, and mostly ending dichotomously with two heads of flowers; rhachis, peduncles, pedicels, involucres, and petioles, thickly covered with red-brown woolly tomentum.
Hab.—Dry forests, “Forty-mile Bush,” head of the River Manawatu; 1876–1878.
This plant is, no doubt, closely allied to O. cunninghamii, Hook., but differing in its peculiar strigose hoary leaves, and their several curious colours, and sharp apiculated teeth, in their veinlets branching from the midrib at right angles, and in its pointed pappus. I have more than once thought, that Sir J.D. Hooker may have included more than one species of Olearia under O. cunninghamii in his “Handbook of New Zealand Flora.” The type of that species (Brachyglottis rani), discovered and described by Cunningham, is a northern plant (Cunningham originally found it north of the Bay of Islands), and I have never met with it in these parts. But be that as it may, this species is neither Cunningham’s plant nor the O. cunninghamii of Hooker. It is common in the “Forty-mile Bush” forest, and when in full flower in summer is a graceful and conspicuous object, always delighting the eye of the traveller that way with its striking masses of white blossoms. Curiously enough this plant does not flower every year. It flowered most abundantly in 1878, but in 1879 not a single shrub could I detect bearing any flowers!
It has been named colorata from the four colours of its leaves and petioles; the upper side of the leaf, when denuded of its hoary hairs, is a peculiar light green, below the blade is whitish with a slight tinge of ochre or light brown, while the mid-rib and larger veins are light reddish-brown, and the petioles and branchlets are a still darker shade of rich red-brown. All this is very constant and apparent, at first sight, in its living state. Its leaves are also frequently further discoloured through being punctured and gnawed by insects.
Plant terrestrial, cæspitose, sub-erect, many-fronded, rhizome or root-stalk rising only a few inches above ground, and in some few instances apparently shortly coalescent. Stipe very short, 6–9 inches, densely clothed throughout with long hairs; hairs 2 inches long, shining, chestnut-brown, articulated and moniliform their whole length; rhachises densely woolly and hairy with light brown, patent, glandular hairs; stipe and main-rhachis  green, sub-succulent, with a continuous, narrow, white-ridged, glabrous line, extending from pinna to pinna on both sides throughout their whole length. Frond obovate or cuneate, profoundly tapering downwards, or somewhat of a rhomboidal figure having two of its sides excessively produced, tripinnate, acuminate at tip, about 40 jugate, 6 feet long, broadest at 20 inches from apex, and there 18–20 inches in diameter, greatly attenuated downwards; pinnæ alternate, free, not crowded, longest pinna isosceles-triangular very acuminate, 9½ inches long and 3 inches broad at base (broadest part), but rapidly decreasing in breadth, being, at 2 inches from base, only 2 inches broad; pinnæ at base of frond very small, 2–2½ inches long, and distant, only 6–7 in the lowest foot on both sides, and fully 15–18 inches from lower end of rhachis before any approach to pairs; pinnules petiolate, straight or inclined forwards, triangular, 12–14 lines long, 4–5 lines broad, broadest at base, very acute, alternate; segments not crowded, oblong-ovate, sub-falcate, alternate, sessile, save lowermost pair on pinnule, decurrent, sharply toothed, the largest barren ones having 10–11 acute, almost spiny, teeth, fertile ones with fewer teeth and sub-revolute; texture membranaceous, both sides more or less hairy, particularly on mid-rib of pinnules; hairs on upper surface loose, hoary; veins pinnate, veinlets forked at apex, some simple, free; sori, generally four on largest segment, small, not crowded; involucres very globose and inflated, margins entire; valves large, especially the outer one which is cucullate, and partly composed of a different texture from that of the frond—not unlike that of a Cibotium.
This fern in some respects approaches to our D. fibrosa, but is very distinct. There is a common family resemblance among most of the large Dicksoniæ, rendering it difficult to discriminate species,—especially from merely dried specimens and portions of fronds. Here, however, the peculiar hairs afford a good character, also the sori and the striking outline of the frond (there are also others more or less minute). The very local and distinct D. arborescens, of St. Helena, the type of the genus, has also similar moniliform hairs. The time is rapidly approaching when ferns will be more truly and naturally classified (as to species) by their peculiar and never-varying natural microscopical characters;—much as now obtains among the Hepaticæ and Musci, the Umbelliferæ and Compositæ. This species is a very handsome growing plant, with its bold fine-spreading crown; in its manner of growth resembling its neighbours Aspidium aculeatum500 and Lomaria discolor—but is as a giant among them! I have known it for  several years, but only last year, for the first time, found it bearing fruit in great profusion.
I have honoured myself by naming it after a disciple and fellow-countryman of Linnæus—Dr. Sparrman—who was one of the earliest botanists in New Zealand, accompanying Captain Cook and the two Forsters hither on his second voyage of discovery. Of Sparrman, his fellow-voyager Dr. Forster says in his preface to his classical Genera Plantarum:—“Sparmannus plantas describebat, Filius easdem delineabat.—Verum dum Sparmannus plantas accuratius examinaret, filius et ego sæpe in consilium vocati in commune consulebamus, etc.,”—and yet nothing in New Zealand has ever been named after him!501