Cyathea woollsiana

Queensland tree fern


Cyathea woollsiana

(F.Muell.) Domin. 1929

pronounced: sigh-ATH-ee-uh woolz-ee-AH-nuh

(Cyatheaceae — the scaly tree fern family)


common name: Queensland tree fern

Cyathea is derived from the Greek κυαθειον (kyatheion), a little cup, referring to the structure that encloses the sorus; woollsiana was named for William Woolls (1814 – 1893), a clergyman, schoolmaster and botanist who emigrated to Australia from the UK to take up a post at Kings School, Parramatta.

This beautiful tree fern, an Australian native, is found in coastal areas of North Queensland between the Herbert and Bloomfield Rivers, growing on the coastal ranges, especially on slopes above creeks and on river banks, in rainforest at an altitude of up to 1200 m. The young plant pictured has been planted in a Picnic Bay garden.

Its erect slender trunk (a rhizome) may be as tall as 6 m, although it is usually much smaller, and as much as 15 cm in diameter.

The fronds are bipinnate, rarely tripinnate, and about 2.5 m long. The rachis and stipe are pale brown, and covered in their lower regions by warts and reddish brown bristly scales; there may also be clumps of spines present. Stipe bases persist, and may be seen protruding from the trunk up near the crown of the plant.

The sori occur in two simple rows, one on either side of the midrib of fertile pinnules; indusia are small, scale-like or hood-like, and situated towards the interior of the pinnule.

The plant will grow in a wide range of areas, including cooler regions. Once established, it will survive dry periods; it prefers shady and moist sites, but will grow in sunnier areas if provided with mulch and regular moisture. Young plants will do quite well in containers, if they are well watered.

Identifying features of the plant include:
       • the base of the stipe is green; this is specially obvious while the frond is unfurling;
       • the frond is light green, the pinnae opposite, and the pinnules fairly thin;
       • the base of the stipe is covered with many deciduous long dark scales, and also persistent long curved erect bristle-like scales;
       • the trunk is fairly slender, and rather untidy;
       • the sori are quite small; the indusia are brown, semi-circular, and entirely on the inner side of the sori.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2014, 2016
Page last updated 6th December 2018