CyatheaceaeWestern Ghats

Cyathea nilgirensis – Nilgiri Tree Fern

Cyathea nilgirensis is a kind of tree fern that is endemic to south India. This should not be confused with Cyathea australis which is also a tree fern native to Australia. These tree ferns are found in shady places of the forests and along the sides of the streams. Generally these love to grow alongside water because it is the primary mode of reproduction for ferns!


Species:C. australis


The range of Cyathea nilgirensis is only in the Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Southern Andhra Pradesh. It is generally found on high altitudes from 600 metres to 2500 metres. They are mostly found along streams in the forests under the shade of other trees. Their range map as on IUCN website is below

Their primary habitat is in the Western Ghats, in the Tirunelveli hills and the Palani hills. They can be found along the ghat road in the Upper Palnis and on many of the surrounding Sholas. A fairly common species here but found rarely on the Kerala ghats and Andhra Pradesh. They are also occasionally found in the Anamalai hills.



These can grow upto 8 meters in height with a scaly dark brown or almost black trunk. The scales are pointed and very sharp. They cover and protect the young fronds. The trunk is woody and can be found with scars from fallen fronds.


The leaves are bi-pinnate and fern-like. The leaves form a crown of fronds at the top of the main woody stem like a Palm tree. The leaves have a stout base, may reach upto 200 centimetres in length and the rachis is covered densely in brownish hairs. Leaf margins are crenate, membranous and the nerves forked.


The spores are found on the lower surface of the leaves. Sori situated on the vein forks of the lower half of the segments, exindusiate (indusium membranaceous), paraphyes intermingled with sporangia, spores trilete.


These ferns too like other ferns depend on spores as their primary mode of reproduction. This is why they are found near the streams in the forests. Without water, the sperms from antheridia cannot reach the egg cells in the archegonia. Learn more about the reproduction of ferns here.

Conservation status

Cyathea nilgirensis is regarded as “Least Concern” in the IUCN red list. However, these species are facing a decline of population due to habitat loss. The streams that flow in the hills of Western Ghats are being diverted for cultivation and this results in water deprivation for several downstream species. Due to this loss of water, the tree ferns are unable to withstand the following summers and their survival is at stake. Overgrazing of ground vegetation by domestic cattle from adjoining villages also suppresses the regeneration of the tree ferns.

These plant species too do not attract too much attention from the conservationists who concentrate mainly on the angiosperms in the Shola forests. They are also a part of our Sholas and should be saved as they are found nowhere else in the World!

More photos ūüôā

Continue Reading

Dicksonia antarctica – Tree Fern

Dicksonia antarctica

The tree ferns or Dicksonia antarctica is the most popular of the tree ferns species that are found naturally in the Oceania. Unlike the other ferns of their type, they grow upto 10 meters in height. Walking through a forest of Dicksonia antarctica, one can definitely feel like he has come to an ancient Jurassic or Triassic forest where dinosaurs lived!


Species:D. antarctica


The tree ferns are native to Australia. It is also found naturally in Tasmania and New Zealand. D. antarctica is the popular tree fern that is found in South Eastern Australia. They grow well and in abundance in moist and shady environments.

The fern grows on damp, sheltered woodland slopes and moist gullies, and they occasionally occur at high altitudes in cloud forests. – Wikipedia.

These ferns are generally tolerant to acidic, neutral or alkaline soil. They can grow in semi-sheltered places but hate droughts, and drying up of their roots.


These ferns generally reproducing by producing spores like other ferns. The spores are produced under their leaves. As these spores get matured, they are dispersed and they grow into a thallus containing male and female gametophytes which produce male and female gametes. The male gametes fertilize the egg cells and the zygote develops which then grows into a complete plant!

Dicksonia antarctica spores on the underside of a frond

Learn more about the life cycle of ferns here – Life Cycle of Ferns.

These trees can also be propagated vegetatively. This can be done by cutting the tree at  its base leaving its rhizome in the soil which dies off and the top part produces fronds and grows into a new tree when planted.

Once cut, the base looks like this. Beautiful isn’t it? But sadly it is left¬†die

The cut tree trunks or shoots that are ready to be planted. They’ll readily sprout and grow into new trees!

Continue Reading