‘Dwarf Woolly Tree Fern’
The name Cyathea tomentosissima derives from:
Cyathea – from the Greek ‘kyatheion’ meaning little cup, referring to the structure that holds the spores.
‘tomentose’ – means ‘hairy’, and ‘-issima’ means ‘ very’.
The common names for this tree fern include the ‘Dwarf Woolly Tree Fern’, ‘Soft New Guinea Tree Fern’ and ‘Highland Lace tree fern’.
Cyathea tomentosissima is endemic to Papua New Guinea. The fern grows in cool mountain cloud forests, open grasslands and along streams at altitudes from 3000m to 3300m. The Soft New Guinea tree fern can withstand occasional short frosts, in an unheated greenhouse I successfully overwintered a 4-5 year old plant down to -4°C (25°F) but then lost it a year later in similar temperatures. Therefore this fern is not fully hardy in the UK, but larger specimens are worth trying in milder parts of the UK if they are well protected.
Cyathea tomentosissima is a very distinctive tree fern of a scraggly soft appearance. The species is relatively fast-growing and develops a short trunk of up to 3m x 16cm (10ft x 6 inches) and fronds that reach 1.2m (4ft) in length. The fronds are bi-pinnate-pinnatifid, dark green, lance shaped, the fronds are soft to touch but the fine hairs almost stick to your hand like Velcro. The fronds have orange-brown and pale brown scales similar to those of C. cooperi but the colour of the scales are accented by the contrasting reddish/dark brown trunk behind.
This fern will be different to anything else in the common tree fern collection, and due to its tolerance of short frosts and the fact that it will establish relatively quickly it is well worth ‘a go’ even as container grown specimen brought under cover through winter. This species will also tolerate sun and can be kept on the drier side.
The condition in which Cyathea tomentosissima thrives is in open areas, with some protection from the midday sun. The soil should be loosely drained with lots of organic matter and watered daily during very hot periods. Cyathea tomentosissima plants should never be brought as bare rooted trunks in the UK, as the chances of the plant surviving are very low. Although this fern is relatively unusual a few years ago a large Dutch nursery started propagating the plant and sold it as simply ‘Cyathea’ since this time it has been more widely available.
Family Name: Cyatheaceae.
Common Names: Dwarf Woolly Tree Fern, Soft New Guinea Tree Fern, Highland Lace tree fern.
Position: Sunny – partial shade.
Soil: Humus-rich, neutral to acid soil.
Growth Rate: medium – fast.
Eventual spread: 2.5m.
Max Height: 3m.
Hardiness: Half Hardy – they are hardy down to -4°C.
Winter tips: Bring plant into unheated green house or conservatory.