It's time to vote on our 2017 photo contest! Vote for your favorite photos of the year here!

Man Fern, Soft Tree Fern, Tasmanian Tree Fern, Wooly Tree Fern

Balantium antarcticum

Family: Dicksoniaceae
Genus: Balantium
Species: antarcticum (ant-ARK-tee-kum) (Info)
Synonym:Dicksonia antarctica
View this plant in a garden



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade

Partial to Full Shade


Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:



Grown for foliage

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From spores

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Dothan, Alabama

Phoenix, Arizona

Anderson, California

Concord, California

Crockett, California

El Cajon, California

El Cerrito, California

Eureka, California

Gardena, California

Hayward, California

Lakewood, California

Mckinleyville, California

Reseda, California

Sacramento, California

San Clemente, California

San Diego, California

San Leandro, California

San Pedro, California

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Cruz, California

Tarzana, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Union City, California

Holmes Beach, Florida

Lecanto, Florida

Melbourne, Florida

Winter Garden, Florida

Yulee, Florida

New Orleans, Louisiana

Las Vegas, Nevada

Cornelius, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Houston, Texas (2 reports)

Kirkland, Washington

Olympia, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 10, 2012, baal from ringarooma,
Australia wrote:

I cannot truly know the power of your Calif sun, but these things I do know..
In tasmania the treefern relishes full sun. What it does always require is moistness, especially around the roots and, if possible, on the trunk [the trunk is a mass of aeolian rootlets]. The thing is mostly found growing in full or partial damp shade because that is where conditions are good for spores to survive, and because trees are all too willing to take advantage of the same. What it does NOT like is a drying wind.
To my eyes they look out of place when exposed, lonely... and pleasing when grouped as an understory.
So... water and protect it. If move it you must, then dig up as much of the rootball as possible [for a sixfooter try to get a rootmass two feet across at least], cut off al... read more


On Mar 19, 2012, peonyrose from Concord, CA wrote:

I have had this beautiful fern in. Concord, Ca for many years. It has thrived well sheltered from our harsh sun by a neighbors very tall oleanders. Alas, I am now faced with having to move the tree, about six feet high, as our neighbor has dug out the oleanders and the fronds are going to scorch in our intense heat. Does anyone know how well this transplants? Other readings suggest I might get away with it and keep the plant alive. Advice appreciated.


On Aug 8, 2011, butch1 from Eureka, CA wrote:

Planted 30 (1 gallon) D. antarctica 20 years ago in a shady ravine behind the the house. Some have reached 12 feet in trunk height with 15" frond spread. They produce spores and I have had many young plants appear on moist, disturbed soil. Eureka is cool and foggy in summer with little to no rain. Plants are not irrigated and go for 4-5 months with no additional watering. Some of the plants have bifurcated for some reason and have multiple growing tips. Several plants have been flattened by falling trees during storms but have come back from under fallen tree trunks. Little to nothing grows beneath plants due to heavy shade and root competition. Very rugged plants!


On Jul 21, 2011, Hempster from Sacramento, CA wrote:

This is one neat plant. I've only had it for 2 seasons.
When I first got it from a (normally great) local nursery it was looking O.K.. Until the first winter. The fronds were fading fast. Turns out it had an infestation of mealy bugs deep in the center under all the fuzz. What a pain.
After much help, it took off all winter & spring and it's looking great. Grows slow, some 20-25 years to maturity for it to release spores, but that's fine as long as it stays
I have it in between buildings on the west side. Gets about 45 mins. of full & an hour of dappled sun. It's very young still and only a foot tall so far & the fronds are huge some about 4 foot long w/ smaller ones coming up every 2 months or so.
DO NOT water the center or the frond... read more


On Jan 10, 2010, TheAmericanGardener from Portland, OR wrote:

I grow this in my area knowing it is quite borderline. I have milked it though some bad winters with fiberglass protection. I have found that the fronds burn off pretty easily with anything more than light frost, and hate sub freezing temps with wind, but the trunk is quite cold hardy and the plant recovers from far worse than its fronds would indicate. I have also found that LOCATION in the yard makes a huge difference around here (we are prone to freezes with strong wind). Think heavy shelter when planting in a borderline zone. I feel like the cold wind does way more damage than the cold.


On Dec 21, 2009, donnyboy204b from Atlantic Beach, FL wrote:

I live near Jacksonville, FL, very close to the ocean, ( zone 9A) and in three years my 3 fern trees have grown very little. Instructions I read said to keep the plants misted with water 'all the time'. Even that didn't work for me so I replanted all 3 trees into pots and inserted those pots into larger pots and keep water in the larger pots all the time so the ferns can get water anytime they need it. My ferns are doing better now than they ever have but my tallest one may be 2 to 2 1/2 feet high (in 3 years) and the other two are both smaller. They're all planted in a shady area in my yard so they don't burn. Can anyone tell me WHY my trees won't grow any better. I also add fertilizer once or twice a year.


On Jan 24, 2009, wormfood from Lecanto, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

When I had this tree fern growing in my shade house it got so wide that tending to my other plants was hazardous. The bristles along the stems gave me ichies and prickly rash that sent me to the shower for relief. It was easy to cure with the shower but decide to pot up the plant and trim the fronds often. Loses fronds during winter but comes back strong with the warm temps. I don't get fernlets but once got a sucker that I tried to remove and grow. I think it was too young and it died. The fronds make great epi medium.


On Sep 23, 2007, leeboi76 from Sydney,
Australia wrote:

2 yrs ago I bought a small tree fern from a local nursery that was "reduced to clear" for $4 due to the fact that all the fronds had burned in the sun. I put it in part shade and it is now about 31/2 feet tall and wide with striking foliage. It growns here in Sydney (Zone 9??) well and took 2 hard frosts this past winter with zero damage. Researching this plant I found that as these ferns trunk and grow tall the "trunk"is actually dead with the crown and fronds actually tunnelling roots through the dead trunk to the soil below. In the past unsavoury dealers would simply head out into the woods and chop off the crown and offer it for sale (the crown reroots easily). As mentioned in an earlier post this is now illegal. The spores easily reach the earth and sprout fernlets. I will post pics ... read more


On Feb 17, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This fern has thrived here in zone 9b. Requires regular watering and feeding. Dicksonia antarctica is commonly found for sale locally in the gardening departments of stores such as Orchard Supply Hardware.

Native to Australia (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania).


On Nov 11, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Its not only a beautiful and unusual plant (tree ferns like that are remains of the Mesozoic Era, when Dinosaurs ruled the Earth), but a very useful one, specially if you are planning on cultivating orchids. Most tropical epiphytic orchids will reach the nirvana if planted on it. The ideal cultivation conditions for this fern are usually the same for most of those kinds of orchids, so if you can grow the fern, the rest is easy.


On Nov 9, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Don't let the name "Soft Tree Fern" fool you - this plant is not one of the softer tree ferns. In fact, it is almost bristly to touch. It is a beautiful plant however.

This fern is probably the most-planted tree fern in southern California, even more so than the ubiquitous Cyathea cooperi. It seems to take more sun than most other ferns, and stays somewhat small (takes much longer to get tall than Australian tree ferns) while keeping a larger head of leaves and looks more lush.

But for anyone who needs to prune one of these, beware! They have thousands of little scales that shed and get in your eye, playing havoc with your cornea and conjunctiva... it can take hours to get rid of the redness and pain. Best to use protective glasses.


On Mar 12, 2003, kennedyh from Churchill, Victoria,
Australia (Zone 10a) wrote:

Soft Tree Ferns are frequently growing in gardens in Australia, because they are very easy to transplant. Living ferns are simply cut through the trunk and then planted in a good humus-rich soil, preferably kept fairly moist. Plants are now only allowed to be taken from the wild under licence. I have one, bought from a nursery in my garden and a smaller plant has recently grown beside it, presumably from spores of the other plant. They are very slow growing, but my plant has grown from about 1.2 metres to 1.5 metres in about 10 years. It needs extra water in our hot dry summers.

The Soft Tree Fern in the wild is host to a number of smaller, epiphytic ferns: Filmy ferns, Mother Shield Ferns, Kangaroo Ferns and others.