Book Reviews

Tree Ferns


treefernsby Mark F. Large and John E. Braggins

Published by CSIRO Publishing in conjunction with Timber Press.

359 pages  A4 size  hard cover

Reviewed by Jan Sked

There have been a number of publications about ferns, but never before has there been a book devoted entirely to tree ferns. This unique book is a guide to all the known tree ferns and is a must for fern gardeners and pteridologists alike. 

Tree ferns are still rapidly evolving. They have survived changes that have brought them from the time of the dinosaurs to the present day and are inexorably linked with the evolution of all living plants.

In this book the authors have surveyed families, genera and species of tree ferns that are suitable for the home garden. They offer up-to-date taxonomy and detailed descriptions, and discuss conservation, evolution, distribution and the tree fern habitat.

Chapter one is an introduction to tree ferns and covers, their habit, life cycle, rhizomes and trunks, spore production, age and growth rates, distribution, evolution, conservation, ethnobotany and various uses to which they may be put.

In recognition of the horticultural importance of tree ferns, chapter two provides extensive cultivation information, including propagation, nutrition, diseases and pests, and the use of tree ferns in landscaping. Some emphasis has been placed on species that are cultivated in Australia and New Zealand, but species from around the world are also included.

Chapter three takes up by far the greater part of the book and is devoted to the descriptions and details of all the living ferns. The tree fern families are discussed and a Key to Tree Ferns is provided, followed by the detailed descriptions of individual species. There are a few line drawings and some distribution maps.

In the centre of the book are 131 colour photographs illustrating many of the species, their habitats and distinctive features.

Appendix 1 describes tree ferns that require further study because of nomenclatural problems that would ensue if they were formally included in the genus Cyathea.

Appendix 2 lists the tree ferns by geographic region, and Appendix 3 provides another listing of species for growing in gardens with various types of climates and conditions.

The appendices are followed by a measurement conversion table, a Glossary of terms, and finally the Bibliography and Index at the end of the book. 

Tree Ferns is quite a substantial book and it is well presented with an attractive dust cover featuring a photograph of Cyathea dealbata on the front and a grove of Cyathea smithii on the back.

The Authors:

Mark F. Large is an associate Professor of Botany and heads the School of Landscape and Plant Science at UNITEC Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. His interest in fern evolution and palaeobotany spans 20 years. He has authored many fern publications and acted as botanical consultant for the popular television series “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

John E. Braggins is a freelance botanical consultant based in Auckland, New Zealand. He taught botany at the University of Auckland for more than 30 years before taking early retirement. He has travelled widely through Asia, Africa and the Pacific to study ferns, and has published more than 40 papers on the subject.

Price: $59.95  + postage $8.00  (limited availability)

Available from:


PO Box 1137, Glebe. NSW. 2037

Phone: 02 9571 8222  Fax: 02 8202 9938


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