Dicksonia antarctica [dik-so-nee-uh, ant-ARK-tee-kuh] is an evergreen fern native to eastern Australia, where it is seen growing from coastal areas of New South Wales, southeast Queensland, and Victoria to Tasmania.
This plant is a member of the family Dicksoniaceae and also goes by the following common names including:
- Man Fern
- Soft Tree Fern
- Wooly Tree Fern
- Tasmanian Tree Fern
Dicksonia Antarctica Care
Size & Growth
While Dicksonia antarctica typically grows up to 15’ – 16’ feet, it has the potential to reach 50’ feet in height.
The fern tree features large, roughly-textured, dark green-colored fronds forming a canopy, which can range from 6’ – 19’ feet in diameter.
The fronds are of two types – sterile and fertile, and they often grow in alternating layers.
Dicksonia antarctica also features erect, long and erect rhizomes which are very hairy at the base.
Since the plant grows at a slow rate i.e., 1” – 2” inches (3 – 5 cm) a year, it takes a long time to mature.
Flowering and Fragrance
Dicksonia Antarctica is a non-flowering tree.
Light & Temperature
Dicksonia Antarctica prefers a partially sheltered position, but it will tolerate full sun, provided it gets an adequate amount of water.
While the plant has been known to tolerate temperatures to 23° degrees Fahrenheit (-5° C), severe cold weather or prolonged exposure to cold weather can cause harm to the tree trunk, so it needs to be protected during extreme or long winters.
Dicksonia antarctica also despises strong winds, so make sure it is protected from them.
Watering and Feeding
Dicksonia Antarctica grows best in areas receiving more than 4” inches of rainfall in a year.
In areas where the average rainfall rate is low, moist gullies provide the best environment for the fern growth.
When cultivated, the tree needs to be watered regularly to maintain adequate moisture levels as it cannot tolerate dryness around the roots.
Dicksonia Antarctica is not drought resistant.
Frequent mulching is also recommended to ensure proper growth.
Apply a granular fertilizer at the base of the fern plant, in spring, to promote the growth of fronds.
During the growing season, apply a liquid fertilizer directly on the crown by mixing it with water.
Avoid watering the crown in winter.
Soil & Transplanting
Dicksonia antarctica can grow in any soil organic, moist, and well-draining.
It does not have any specific soil pH requirements.
Grooming and Maintenance
Dicksonia antarctica falls under the category of plants not requiring maintenance or grooming.
Experts recommend against even removing the old fronds as they protect the trunk from desiccation and cold weather.
Even the brown fronds shouldn’t be completely removed; cut them at about 6” inches from the trunk.
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How to Propagate Tasmanian Tree Fern
While Dicksonia antarctica propagates through spores, this is not the most widely used method because the tree starts producing spores after it reaches the age of 20 years.
The more commonly used method for the propagation of this fern species is through plantlets growing at the base of rhizomes.
Trunk cutting is another method of propagating Dicksonia antarctica, but it is only recommended to be used when the parent tree is about to die.
The process involves cutting through the trunk, to the ground level, as well as removing fronds, after which the top part forms new roots and regrows, whereas the base of the trunk dies.
Tasmanian Tree Fern Pest or Diseases
Narrowing of the trunk and reduction in the sizes of fronds are the most common problems of the Dicksonia antarctica plant, and they occur when the plant gets too dry.
While these problems are treated by increasing the amount and frequency of watering, it may be a long time for the plant to regain its original condition.
The plant generally remains pest-free when grown in outdoor areas.
Dicksonia Antarctica Uses
Dicksonia antarctica plant is grown both for ornamental purposes and as a food source.
The pith of the fern plant is eaten in certain parts of the world in both cooked and raw forms and is also a source of starch.