Dicksonia antarctica (Soft Tree Fern)

Native to Australia and Tasmania, Soft Tree Fern trunks are often used by epiphytes like orchids and mosses. The fronds, especially on mature specimens, create a gigantic canopy (albeit rarely) up to 6 meters (20 feet) across. The fronds are deeply-divded and arch
dramatically around the crown.

Dicksonia antarctica (Soft Tree Fern, Tasmanian/Australian Tree Fern, Woolly Tree Fern)
Deciduous: evergreen in warm climates, deciduous in colder climates
Hardiness Zones: 9-10
Height: 6.0-9.5 meters (20-30 feet) tall outdoors, grows no more than 18 feet tall and 8 feet wide indoors
Diameter: The trunk reaches 30-70 centimeters (12-28 inches) wide. The canopy of fronds may extend up to 6 meters (20 feet) in diameter, although this is very rare.
Growth Rate: slow, no more than 30 centimeters (12 inches) per year at maximum
Age: lives up to 150 years old, achieves maximum height by 50 years old usually
Root System: fibrous
Family: Dicksoniaceae
Subspecies: none

Tolerates: rabbits, heavy shade, no serious pest or disease problems, light frosts (rarely)
Problems (major): Heavy frosts are typically fatal; dry soils and drenched soils are both very detrimental.
Problems (minor): Occasional problems include spider mites and root rot. In arid climates, the trunk should be thoroughly watered (avoid directly watering the crown).
Poisonous: no known toxins, although many ferns contain carcinogens (ferns also tned to have thiaminase, a protein that harms the body’s Vitamin B complex – in large enough quantities, this can be harmful to injest)

Soil requirements: Soft Tree Ferns require medium to wet soil, well-drained, loam or sand, very acidic or neutral pH. Humusy, consistently moist soils are optimal. For indoor soils, use potting mixture w/ bark, loam, sand, and leaf mold.
Air Requirements: requires high humidity and the least amount of wind possible
Watering requirement: Keep the soil consistently moist or wet; avoid overwatering.
Sun requirement: part-shade to full shade

Leaf shape: fronds, deeply-divided, arching, large
Leaf size: The dark-green foliage can reach a maximum of 3 meters (10 feet) long. The fronds are enormous.
Flower structure: reproduces by spores
Flowering frequency: not applicable
Bulb/tuber: neither
Monocot/Dicot: dicot
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
The Soft Tree Fern is the cold hardiest of all the tree ferns. The trunk ranges from a reddish-brown to a black color.

In select region, this can be grown as a magnificnet ornamental. This can be a potential tree supplement in select regions, although the growth is quite slow.

Sources used:


A juvenile Soft Tree Fern at Koishikawa Botanical Gardens, Tokyo, Japan (uploaded 26 January 2008)


A Soft Tree Fern at the Palm House in Kew Gardens (4 April 2007)


The bottom portion of a frond with dozens of spores visible  (17 May 2005)

I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s).


Dicksonia_antarctica_1 Dicksonia_antarctica_2Dicksonia_antarctica_3 DSC06434Fern_1 Fern_2  Tree_fern!
Soft Tree Ferns at Missouri Botanical Garden
Soft Tree Ferns (mostly their foliage) visible in Puerto Rico (thanks to Ben E. for letting me use this image!)

All of the last 8 images provided were taken by me (the last taken by Ben E.). They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.


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