Dicksonia antarctica Soft tree-fern
Tree fern in Glenveagh

Family: Dicksoniaceae

Origin: south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania.

This tree is a true fern, with a massive, upward-growing rhizome forming its trunk, which can be as much as 15 m tall. The outer surface of the trunk is covered with fibrous roots and the withered remains of the previous years' fronds. New fronds are produced annually, and can grow to as much as 2 m long. They are twice or three-times pinnate, and the ultimate pinnules are toothed if sterile, or lobed and much smaller if fertile. The leaf-stems (stipes) are slightly hairy or scaly and grey or brown.

Tree ferns in Derreen Gardens, Kerry

Tree ferns require a relatively high humidity, shade, and a generally frost-free winter, with protection from wind. For these reasons they flourish on Ireland's south-west coast, for instance in Derreen Gardens in Co Kerry. They were planted there in a sheltered dell around 1900, and have happily naturalised.

Tree fern in Glenveagh

Other coastal areas in Ireland, for example the north-eastern counties of Down and Antrim, also provide a suitable climate and many gardeners in these areas are now successfully growing them.

Tree fern in Mountstewart

Named after the British botanist and horticulturist James Dickson, 1738-1822. The specific epithet antarctica, signifying 'of the South Polar region', is used in botany to refer to latitudes below 45S, including Tierra del Fuego.

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