Cyathea cunninghamii Hook.f.

Slender Tree-fern

Icon. Pl. 10 (1854) APNI

Taxonomic status:Accepted

Occurrence status:Present

Establishment means:Native

Threat status:Victoria: vulnerable (v); listed in Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988

Trunk erect, slender, to 20 m tall, 8–10 cm diam. Fronds 1.5–3 m long. Stipe short, coarse, black, dull, with numerous, very small, sharp tubercles; persistent stipe bases crumbly; scales (at base) ovate to linear, 1–4 cm long, papery, shiny, pale fawn to light brown, often with dark central streaks, with hair-points and a dark seta at tip. Lamina subtriangular to sublanceolate, 3-pinnate with pinnae shorter near stipe, dark green; primary and secondary pinnae narrowly oblong with secondary pinnae abruptly decreasing in width to linear tips; lower surface of rachises with scattered scales which are usually membranous and flat, each with a terminal seta; ultimate rachises mealy-brown underneath due to numerous stellate scales and hairs; upper surface of rachises and veins with numerous, curled, pale and red-brown hairs. Pinnules sessile with adjacent broad bases continuous, margins shallowly toothed on sterile pinnae and deeply lobed when fertile; lower surface of veins with tiny, colourless, stellate hairs. Sori only one per lobe, with narrowly ovoid, dark grey, furry receptacle; indusium prominent, deeply but incompletely cup-shaped (with notch towards margin), membranous, dark at centre, often splitting in two when dry and appearing as 2 half-cups.

EGL, EGU, GipP, HFE, HNF, HSF, OtP, OtR, Strz, WaP, WPro. Also Qld, NSW, Tas. (including King Is.). New Zealand. Of limited distribution in Victoria and confined to deep gullies in wet forests (e.g. Otway Range, Dandenong Ranges, Tarra-Bulga National Park, Wilsons Promontory, Mt Drummer in the far east) and seldom common.

The combination of dark green fronds, an abrupt decrease in pinnae width to linear tips, and the cup-like enclosing indusium, clearly distinguish C. cunninghamii from the other 4 Cyathea in Victoria. The stellate hairs on the lower surface of ultimate rachises and veins, although too minute to be seen even with a hand lens, are also characteristic of this species. It has been reported that C. cunninghamii does not become fertile before plants attain a height of about 7 m, corresponding to an estimated age of about 20–25 years!

Source: Entwisle, T.J. (1994). Ferns and allied plants (Psilophyta, Lycopodiophyta, Polypodiophyta). In: Walsh, N.G.; Entwisle, T.J. (eds), Flora of Victoria Vol. 2, Ferns and Allied Plants, Conifers and Monocotyledons. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
Updated by: Daniel Ohlsen, 2017-03-08
Hero image
Distribution map
life Life
kingdom Plantae
phylum Tracheophyta
order Cyatheales
family Cyatheaceae
genus Cyathea
Higher taxa


Source: AVH (2014). Australia's Virtual Herbarium, Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, <>. Find Cyathea cunninghamii in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Cyathea cunninghamii in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Gippsland Plain present native
Otway Plain present native
Warrnambool Plain present native
East Gippsland Lowlands present native
East Gippsland Uplands present native
Wilsons Promontory present native
Highlands-Southern Fall present native
Highlands-Northern Fall present native
Otway Ranges present native
Strzelecki Ranges present native
Highlands-Far East present native

State distribution

Distribution map
New South Wales