Tawhiao was the second Maori King, crowned in 1860. The King Tawhiao collection of ferns comprises specimens of 20 species.
At the request of King Tawhiao, 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 rongoa, for medicinal healing. Each of these ferns is annotated with its medicinal usage, making this collection a valuable record of some of the rongoa employed.