Cyathea leichhardtiana (F.Muell.) Copel.

Prickly Tree-fern

Philipp.J. Sci. 6: 360 (1911) 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 7 m tall and 15 cm diam. Fronds 1–2.5 m long. Stipe short, coarse, brown, dull, with numerous sharp spines; spines acuminate, pungent, 2–4 mm long; scales (at base) linear, 1–3 cm long, silky, pale, edges dark and finely barbed, each with an apical seta. Lamina subtriangular, 3-pinnate with pinnae near the stipe much reduced in size; primary and secondary pinnae oblong-lanceolate to narrowly oblong with apices acuminate to abruptly acuminate; lower surface of rachises dark red-brown, shiny, prickly, with scattered scales; both surfaces of ultimate rachises and midveins with tiny scales, most of these coarse with small, dark, marginal setae, others membranous, pale and fimbriate. Pinnules sessile with broad bases, margins crenate to bluntly toothed. Sori with small, globular receptacle; indusium of delicate, membranous, fimbriate, almost colourless scales at base of receptacle.

EGL, EGU, GipP. Also Qld, NSW. Localized but abundant in the eastern corner of East Gippsland (e.g. Mt Drummer, Mallacoota area) with a western disjunction at Fairy Dell near Bruthen.

The slender trunk, sharp spines on the persistent stipe bases, very dark green fronds and the small sori without obvious indusium characterise this species. The tiny, red-brown, flat scales (appearing as small dark dots with a hand lens) on the ultimate rachises and midveins of the pinnae are also distinctive. Cyathea leichhardtiana is included in the subgenus Sphaeropteris of Cyathea, which is sometimes (e.g. Tryon 1970) treated as a separate genus (with the remaining Victorian species referred to Alsophila).

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.
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 leichhardtiana in AVH ; Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, © The State of Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (published Dec. 2014) Find Cyathea leichhardtiana in Victorian Biodiversity Atlas
  Bioregion Occurrence status Establishment means
Gippsland Plain present native
East Gippsland Lowlands present native
East Gippsland Uplands present native

State distribution

Distribution map
New South Wales