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Cyathea: Tree fern habitats

Tree ferns are commonly found in areas of constant humidity that aren’t too hot and not too cold. Their centres of diversity therefore are found in equatorial mountain rain forests and on ocean islands without pronounced seasons. To the north tree ferns are found as far as southern Japan, and to the south as far as various subantarctic islets south of New Zealand.

The two most important families of tree ferns are the Cyatheaceae and the Dicksoniaceae, which contain a total of some 500 to 700 species. It’s easy to tell the two apart: In the Dicksoniaceae, the spore-producing structures are found on the margins of the fronds, and the stalks of the fronds are covered in thin hairs. By contrast, the sporiferous structures of the Cyatheaceae are spread over the lower surface of the frond, while the frond stalks are covered with multicelled scales. The genus Cyathea, from which the family’s name is derived, is by far the most diverse genus of all tree ferns. More than 400 species of Cyathea have been described so far, though assigning them to particular species can be very difficult.

Audio file download
Cyathea: Tree fern habitats (MP3, 510 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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