Plant of the month:
Tree ferns are associated with New Zealand and the national emblem of New Zealand being a fern this link is reinforced in the mind. It may then come as a surprise to find that our hardy tree fern Dicksonia antarctica does not come from New Zealand, nor the Antarctic of course, but Australia. Here it is found growing as a tall understorey under eucalyptus trees in the South East of the country. To grow one successfully you will need some shade and to protect its crown in the winter from the worst of the frosts. Straw is a good insulating material, plastic less so as you need to be careful not to rot the growing point. The trunk of the fern is not like a tree trunk. It is technically known as a cordex and consists of a mass of old leaf bases bound together with a dense root mass. The ring of old leaves will be replaced each year by new growth from the the crown and all the leaf growth will be from this apex. They certainly display their ancient origins and one would not be surprised to see a small dinosaur stride by when passing through the fern garden!