‘Lacy Tree Fern’
The name Cyathea cooperi derives from:
Cyathea – from the Greek ‘kyatheion’ meaning little cup, referring to the structure that holds the spores.
cooperi – named in honour of Sir Daniel Cooper (1821-1902) Member of the old NSW Legislative Council.
Common names include the ‘Lacy tree fern’ due its delicate frond structure, the ‘Australian tree fern’, ‘Coin spot tree fern’ and the ‘Scaly tree fern’ due to the scars left by fallen fronds.
Cyathea cooperi is endemic to the Eastern Australia and has naturalised in Western Australia. It is naturally found in tropical lowlands, tropical and sub-tropical rainforest, and montane forest. The species can be found growing at heights of up to 1400m (4500ft). The fern commonly grows along streams and in gullies, along the coast of Queensland and New South Wales. The ‘Lacy tree fern’ is rarely found in Victoria or at high elevations growing alongside Dicksonia antarctica and Cyathea australis due to it not being tolerate of such low temperatures.
Cyathea cooperi is a relatively fast growing tree fern that can reach up to 12m (40ft). As with many of the faster growing tree ferns the competition to get closer to the light, results in a slender trunk of up to 15cm (6 inches). The stipes and upper trunk are covered in very light brown scales, with brown teeth. The elegant arching frond can reach up to 4.5m (15ft) in length.
The trunk often shows scars where spent fronds or stipes have detached from the trunk. This has led the tree fern to be nicknamed the ‘Coin spotted tree fern’. The scars left on the trunk often form a beautiful diamond pattern as the majestic fronds elegantly hang in the canopy above.
In its native habitat Cyathea cooperi will rarely experiences temperatures below as 3°C (37°F) and therefore is not hardy. This fern can make a good specimen plant if grown in a pot and kept under glass in a cool conservatory or heated greenhouse over winter and moved outside when the threat of frosts have passed.
Although less fussy than other tree ferns Cyathea cooperi is best grown in a semi shaded position away from cold winds. Mature plants are more tolerant and will thrive in more exposed positions. The ‘Lacy tree fern’ is a good fern to plant under the canopy of larger ferns to give it shelter until established, but be warned this fern will soon grow to be the ‘show plant’ in your fernery.
Due to its fast growth rates, beautiful arching fronds and tolerance of sunlight Cyathea cooperi has been a popular ‘exotic’ plant around the world. The plant however is not always a welcome addition to ecosystems; the species is one of the easiest to germinate from spore and therefore can become an invasive threat. This is true of Hawaii, where Cyathea cooperi has invaded forests and endangered native tree ferns. The species has naturalized in Mauritius, French Polynesia, La Réunion Island, and Madeira to name a few.
With this species so widely grown it is no surprise that cultivars have been developed, the more popular of these are Cyathea cooperi sp. ‘Brentwood’ and ‘Robusta’, these are found grown widely in private gardens along the West coast of the USA. On Northwest side of the Portuguese Island of Madeira many double or even triple headed species can be found through what scientists believe to be a natural mutation of the species.
Botanical Information and Overview
Family Name: Cyatheaceae.
Common Name: Lacy tree fern, Coin spot tree fern, Australian tree fern, Scaly tree fern.
Position: Partial to full sunlight.
Soil: Humus-rich, neutral to acid soil.
Growth Rate: fast.
Eventual spread: 9m
Max Height: 12m
Hardiness: Half Hardy – down to 0°C.
Summer tips: Keep plants moist, water daily during the hotter periods.