Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Dicksonia antarctica

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah - November

Common name soft tree fern, brown tree fern
Scientific name Dicksonia antarctica Labill.
Family  Dicksoniaceae

Genus: Dicksonia - honours James Dickson, 1738-1822, a Scottish nurseryman, plant collector, botanist and mycologist, an original member of the Linnean Society and the Horticultural Society.

Species: antarctica - ‘southern’, of the South Polar region.

Distribution Endemic to the east coast of Australia from southern Queensland to Victoria, where it is widespread except in the north-west, and also Tasmania.
Native habitat Moist gullies and slopes, mostly in areas with greater than 1000 mm rainfall per year. Tolerates a wide soil pH range but will not tolerate drought.
Description Can reach 15 m in height. Grows very slowly and does not have ‘tree rings’. Fibrous roots clothe most of the trunk and soft, rusty hairs cover emerging new fronds. Spores are shed when conditions are favourable; often in spring.
Flowering/fruiting n/a


Visitor Centre entrance, ramp to Restaurant, Gondwana Walk, Forest Walk, Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Walk.


‘Tomah’; a name bestowed long ago by Darug Aboriginal people, describes this tree-fernclothed landmark, known today as Mount Tomah.

George Caley, botanical collector to Sir Joseph Banks, mapped his November 1804 expedition into the Blue Mountains naming this same area Fern Tree Hill, prompted by ‘These trees ... very numerous, and some ...15 yards in height.’

Ferns are propagated from spores, a long process requiring patience and dedication.

Unlike the Cyathea species, Dicksonia antarctica can also be propagated from stem sections planted and nurtured until they ‘take root’.

Tree ferns are listed as protected native plants under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 No 80 and must not be collected without authorisation.

Ferns belong to the botanical group of seedless plants with ancient fossil lineage dating back 360 million years to the Carboniferous. Ferns pre-date flowering plants though modern fern forms appeared about 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous.

Available in most cool-climate nurseries.