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Dicksonia antarctica - Labill.

Common Name Tree Fern, Australian treefern
Family Dicksoniaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[200]. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[172].
Habitats Damp sheltered woodland slopes and moist gullies[144].
Range Australia - New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade
Dicksonia antarctica Tree Fern, Australian treefern

Dicksonia antarctica Tree Fern, Australian treefern


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of fern
Dicksonia antarctica is an evergreen Fern growing to 9 m (29ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Stem
Edible Uses:

The pith in the upper part of the trunk just below the growing point is eaten raw or roasted[46, 61, 154, 193]. It is rich in starch[105, 144] but also contains tannin and is astringent[154]. Descriptions of the taste vary from bitter to sweet, astringent and like a bad turnip[193]. The core of the plant near the growing tip is used[193]. Harvesting the stem kills the plant so this use cannot normally be condoned[193]. The stem contains about 61 kilocalories per 100g[193]. Young leaves - cooked. Harvested just before they unfurl, they are juicy and slimy, tasting like bitter celery[193].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Soil stabilization

This species is used in New Zealand to stabilize roadside cuttings[200].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a sheltered woodland position and a moist soil[11, 200]. Strongly resents drought or dryness at the roots[200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is hardy to about -5°c[184, 200], succeeding outdoors in the milder areas of Britain where it thrives and often self-sows in Cornish gardens[49]. One report says that some forms are hardy to at least -7°c[157]. Plants can tolerate snow but are intolerant of severe frosts[11, 200]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]. The 'trunk' of this plant is merely the decaying remains of earlier growth of the plant and forms a medium through which the roots grow[157]. Plants can be cut down and, if they are kept moist, the top portions can be replanted and will form new roots[157]. The stump, however, will not regenerate since it is simply dead organic matter[157]. It is best to leave old fronds on the plant in order to protect the trunk from cold and desiccation[166].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Spores - can be sown at any time in a warm greenhouse. Surface sow and enclose the pot in a plastic bag in order to keep it moist. Place in light shade. Germinates in 1 - 3 months at 20°c. Prick out small clumps of plants when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shaded part of the greenhouse for at least the first 2 years. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. The spores can be stored dry for up to 10 years[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Cibotium barometzScythian LambFern0.0 8-11  LMHSNM11 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

   Thu Apr 28 07:49:17 2005

hay good site you done well!

   Sun Jun 19 02:01:54 2005

My Tasmanian Tree Fern has been growing great in a large pot for the past year on a shaded porch in damp Portland, Oregon. I need to move to a place where there is only a an outside area that is bright and gets direct sun for part of the day. Is there any anyway that this can grow in that pot indoors? I hate to give it up, but I don't want to kill it either. Thanks much.

Bill Bayard   Sun Jun 19 02:17:51 2005

I have had a Tasmanian Tree Fern growing quite wonderfully in a large pot under a shaded porch porch area for a year now. I must move to a place where the only outside area is bright and gets direct sun at times during the day. Is there anyway to grow this indoors? Thanks much, Bill

GEORGE W GROVES   Thu Apr 6 2006


   Mon Jan 29 2007

Dicksonia antarctica - an Australian endemic - would hardly be used in New Zealand 'to stabilize roadside cuttings'. And ferns have fronds, not 'frongs'.

Richard Allison   Sun Apr 15 2007

I was given two Dicksonia Antarctica for Xmas 2006. I kept then in a conservatory until the Spring. One requred a lot of water, the other hardly any. When I planted them out, the root ball on the one that required the water filled the pot, the other had no root ball at all. The one with the root ball steamed away sending out about lots of 3 foot fronds, the other made a few one foot fronds but lots of ferns appeared in the ground around the base. They both appeared to have come through the winter OK with some frost damage to the fronds. The big frond specimen has now several new shoots about to emerge, the other continues to generate ferns aound it's base. Are these individual tree ferns, and what should I do.

ALLAN LAWRIE   Fri Jul 13 2007

i have just bought a dicksonia antartica but my garden gets direct sunlight from around 9am-6pm will it survive ok if watered regularly thanks. Allan

Jane   Mon May 19 2008

My tree fern was purchased last year at approx 4ft. It was perfect. It was covered with straw and fleece during the winter, however now that the fleece etc has been removed the visible tips of the crown appear to have gone black. Only one or two appear to have any green growth and only one seems to be starting to open. Will the rest follow suit or are they dead. Please help. Jane from North Wales

Isobel   Wed Oct 14 2009

There are serious environmental and pest risk concerns from the trade in D.antartica. As a 'plant for the future' I would argue that there contribution is highly questionable. They are commonly remvoed from rainforests in Australis and have been known to harbour a variety of non-native pests. Please see: http://www.wwf.org.uk/filelibrary/pdf/tradedextinction01.pdf Also available on-line: Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Consultative Forum on Non-Native Species 3 March 2005 Zoological Society, London

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