Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Dicksonia antarctica

Dicksoniaceae

Soft Treefern

Danger: Toxic fronds

Description

This fern has a trunk that grows to 4.5 m high and is 30 cm in diameter. The treefern trunk is densely covered with dark, red-brown hairs towards the crown and with coarse, brown, fibrous roots towards the base. The fronds (leaves) are mostly 1-3 m long and quite leathery. They are dark glossy green above and paler underneath. Spore cases found on the under surface of fronds are green, maturing to brown.

Where it is found

In New South Wales the Soft Treefern grows on the coast and tablelands. It is widespread in mountain gullies, usually along creeks, and especially in cooler rainforest in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. In South Australia it appears to be extinct.

Uses

  • The soft, pulpy tissue at the top of the trunk is very starchy and can be roasted or eaten raw. Low (1989) reports that this tissue, containing about 12 per cent starch, was probably a staple food for Aboriginal people. However, removal of this growing heart kills the plant.
  • Uncoiled young fronds can be eaten after roasting or steaming to remove toxins.

Further information

Click here for further information on Dicksonia antarctica.

Dicksonia antarctica
The starchy inner trunk of the Soft Treefern (Dicksonia antarctica) can be roasted and eaten). Photo: David Hardin at Ben Halls Gap.

Dicksonia-antarctica
Dicksonia antarctica: coiled frond, habit.