Tree ferns are from the plant order Cyatheales. In Baw Baw Shire in the areas where rainfall is high, the tree ferns we see in gullies and wet areas with tree cover, can reach small tree height. They can grow up to 10m tall but some may only grow to 1m.
Tree ferns have fronds which uncurl as they grow. Their circular-spiral design as they unfurl is like a ‘Fibonacci spiral’ which can often be found in nature. Mathematically it is something called the Golden ratio which has recursive sequence. Check out this link: https://insteading.com/blog/fibonacci-sequence-in-nature/
The two main species of Tree Fern in Baw Baw are the Rough Tree Fern, Cyathea australis and the Soft Tree Fern, Dicksonia antarctica.
The Rough Tree Fern has a beautiful appearance and is extremely hardy, even capable of tolerating direct sun while the roots remain wet. It is our most common Tree Fern and can often be found growing in open situations some distance from creeks and streams. The stipe (frond stalk) is covered in prickly tubercules.
The Soft Tree Fern is mostly found in high rainfall forests and gullies. In places, it forms huge stands and the ‘hairy’ trunk is an excellent host for epiphytes. The stipe is smooth.
One of the early settlers in Drouin, Franklin Jackson, named his property ‘Ferntree Ridge’ because of the large number of tree ferns on his property. Today there is no evidence of Tree Ferns, just houses!
Tree Ferns are slow growing, ancient plants. They are often the first to recover after bushfire. Possums and Lyrebirds nest in the crown.
Some places to see Tree Ferns as they were before settlement:
- Bellbird Park Drouin (Settlement Giant Walk Drouin Tree Walks book p24)
- John Lardner Reserve
- Snake Gully
- Rokeby Crossover Rail Trail
- Glen Nayook Rainforest walk
- Mount Worth State Park
- Noojee Trestle Bridge
- Ada Tree Walk