With massive fronds creating a luxuriously green canopy in the understory of Australian forests, tree ferns are a familiar sight on many long drives or bushwalks. But how much do you really know about them?
First of all, tree ferns are ferns, but they are not really trees. To be a tree, a plant must be woody (undergo secondary plant growth, which thickens stems and roots) and grow to a height of at least three metres when mature. While tree ferns can have single, thick trunk-like stems and can grow to a height of more than 15 metres, they are never woody.
They’re also incredibly hardy — tree ferns are often the first plants to show signs of recovery in the early weeks after bushfires. The unfurling of an almost iridescent green tree fern fiddlehead amid the sombre black of the bushfire ash is almost symbolic of the potential for bushfire recovery. MORE
Header image: A shoot of the Dicksonia antarctica, ready to unfurl. Credit: JJ Harrison/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA.