Soft Tree Fern
Known as the soft tree fern or brown tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica is found from Tasmania through to South eastern Queensland.
Dicksonia antarctica is really a rainforest fern and grows well in the cooler mountainous areas and particularly well along damp creek beds and shaded gullies.
These are an ancient fern, wonderful in the wild and excellent as a landscaping feature in the right location.
Growth rate is dependant on conditions, in a good year they can put on 10cms +, in other years as little as 1 – 2 cm.
They can reach an eventual height of 10m (sometimes more in cool protected positions) and have a spread of 3-4 m.
Unlike Cyathea cooperi the hard tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica is one tree fern that can be grown from cut trunks, in areas of development they are saved by being cut at the base and having the foliage trimmed back, being careful not to remove or damage the new growing tips.
A licence is required to harvest and sell these ferns. At this stage the whole trunk and growing tip need to be get moist until replanted and re established. Other tree ferns treated in this manner will die.
Although they can be a large fern they are relatively easy to transplant, they do require dappled shade, lots of mulch to keep in moisture and provide nutrients although in nature they seem to handle dry conditions, prolonged dry spells can be a problem especially in sunnier aspects
Care and Landscaping
In actual fact care of Dicksonia antarctica is very simple if you have chosen the right conditions. Cool to temperate climate, dappled shade or ‘filtered light’, humus rich loose moist soil and moisture.
Contrary to popular belief the soft tree fern does not need to watered every week, yes in dry hot conditions this may be the case, however in a reasonable position with natural rainfall they survive well through dry spells.
These wonderful plants can be grown in containers, however the containers need to be large due to the extensive root systems. They will survive indoors, however they do need good air circulation and in areas that are centrally heated they may be problematical.
The removal or pruning of dead fronds is common for aesthetic purposes, however in the natural environment these fronds tend to hang down over the trunk and provide protection from both the cold of winter and the heat of summer. It good conditions cleaning up dead fronds present few if any problems.
Problems and diseases
In terms of problems and diseases Dicksonia antarctica has few, lack of water or to much sun are major problems. In Australian conditions winter presents no problems in the natural environment.