Dicksonia.jpg (22114 bytes)Dicksonia antarctica: is known as the Soft Tree Fern. It is probably the most popular large fern in cultivation in eastern Australia. Worldwide there are 25 Dicksonia species with three endemics. Dicksonia antarctica is found in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. In Tasmania they are known as Man Ferns. The species also occurred in South Australia but is thought to be extinct in that state. They usually grow in moist gullies and sheltered forests. The Soft Tree Fern has a thick trunk, which may reach a height of four metres, crowned with large spreading fronds that may reach a length of three metres. In nature, the fibrous trunks are hosts for a range of epiphytic plants including other ferns and mosses. In the garden they prefer a sheltered position. In exposed situations their fronds may be damaged by frost. At Yallaroo we have a number of Soft Tree Ferns growing near our patio. They provide shelter for more delicate plants. Large numbers of Soft Tree Fern trunks are sold in nurseries. They are cut off flush with the ground and their fronds trimmed. The trunks are planted at least 15 centimetres in the ground and kept moist. New roots are produced at the base and the ferns should be self-supporting in about 12 months. Soft Tree Ferns make excellent tub specimens. Sometimes small plants develop on the sides of the trunks. These “pups” may be carefully cut off and planted. In NSW Soft Tree Ferns may only be harvested under license from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. These licensed plants carry a NPWS tag. Please don’t purchase plants without tag as these ferns have probably been collected illegally. Dicksonia antarctica may be propagated from spores but this is a lengthy process fraught with difficulty.