Tasmanian tree fern in Gondwana forests.
Dicksonia antarctica, the soft tree fern or man fern, is a species of evergreentree fernnative to eastern Australia, ranging from south-east Queensland, coastal New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania.
These ferns can grow to 15 m (49 ft) in height, but more typically grow to about 4.5–5 m (15–16 ft), and consist of an erect rhizome forming a trunk. They are very hairy at the base of the stipe (trunk). The large, dark green, roughly-textured fronds spread in a canopy of 2–6 m (6 ft 7 in–19 ft 8 in) in diameter. The shapes of the stems vary as some grow curved and there are multi-headed ones. The fronds are borne in flushes, with fertile and sterile fronds often in alternating layers.
The "trunk" of this fern is merely the decaying remains of earlier growth of the plant and forms a medium through which the roots grow. The trunk is usually solitary, without runners, but may produce offsets. They can be cut down and, if they are kept moist, the top portions can be replanted and will form new roots. The stump, however, will not regenerate since it is dead organic matter. In nature, the fibrous trunks are hosts for a range of epiphytic plants including other ferns and mosses. The fern grows at 3.5 to 5 cm per year and produces spores at the age of about 20 years.
Large Dicksonia antarctica available for sale come from old growth Tasmanian forests, and may be hundreds of years old. Many tree ferns do not survive the logging process and are sold as mulch, plant pots and as garden path rounds and path retaining walls. The trunks of tree ferns alive and dead are also available from local suppliers who license collection of minor species from Forestry Tasmania now renamed Susstainable Timbers Tasmania, the State Government GBE who manage forestry.