Herb: Tree Fern

Latin name: Dicksonia antarctica

Family: Dicksoniaceae

Medicinal use of Tree Fern:


Description of the plant:


9 m
(30 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Damp sheltered woodland slopes and moist gullies.

Edible parts of Tree Fern:

The pith in the upper part of the trunk just below the growing point is eaten raw or roasted. It is rich in starch but also contains tannin and is astringent. Descriptions of the taste vary from bitter to sweet, astringent and like a bad turnip. The core of the plant near the growing tip is used. Harvesting the stem kills the plant so this use cannot normally be condoned. The stem contains about 61 kilocalories per 100g. Young leaves - cooked. Harvested just before they unfurl, they are juicy and slimy, tasting like bitter celery.

Other uses of the herb:

This species is used in New Zealand to stabilize roadside cuttings.

Propagation of Tree Fern:

Spores - can be sown at any time in a warm greenhouse. Surface sow and enclose the pot in a plastic bag in order to keep it moist. Place in light shade. Germinates in 1 - 3 months at 20C. Prick out small clumps of plants when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shaded part of the greenhouse for at least the first 2 years. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. The spores can be stored dry for up to 10 years.

Cultivation of the herb:

Damp sheltered woodland slopes and moist gullies.

Known hazards of Dicksonia antarctica:

Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.