Tāwhiao was the second Māori King, crowned in 1860. The King Tāwhiao collection of ferns comprises specimens of 20 species.
At the request of King Tāwhiao and his wife Te Atakohu, the collection was prepared by C.K. Jeffs in 1888 to thank a Canadian doctor, J.T. Rennie, for his service to the King's iwi, Tainui.
Various plants, including ferns, were used as rongoā, for medicinal healing. Each of these ferns is annotated with its medicinal usage, making this collection a valuable record of some of the rongoā employed.