Cyathea cooperi

Lacy tree fern, Australian tree fern

Family: Cyatheaceae

It grows on the coast in NSW and Queensland, mainly in warm temperate rainforest. Its natural distribution is somewhat confused as it has now rapidly colonised local bushland from gardens and landscapes, especially along nutrient enriched creeklines. However, there are records of collections in the 1800s from the central and south coast of NSW. It is now recognised as weedy in some areas.

An extremely variable plant that grows on average from 2.5 to 4 metres and can be a lot taller, sometimes to 12 metres. C. cooperi is quite distinctive from C. australis in that it has a more slender trunk with distinctive “coin spots” where old fronds have broken off the trunk and straw-like scales at the base of the fronds. The fronds are very fast growing. Fronds can grow to 5 m long, although usually less. Spores are produced on the underside of the fronds in large numbers.

In the garden

It grows best in high humidity and high soil moisture conditions, therefore use good quality mulches and top them up regularly to keep the soil moist and also provide nutrients to the shallow root system.

Grow it in a shady position with some protection from hot western sun for it to look its best. A great beautiful looking ornamental background or feature plant. It responds well to small amounts of organic fertiliser.

It adds structure to rainforest and shady gardens as well as water features and landscaped creeks.


By spores. Large tree ferns are often sold by nurseries as trunks sawn off at the base. These are Dicksonia antarctica and they quickly form roots from the base when planted. Cyathea cooperi cannot be treated in the same way and will not grow from sawn off sections and cannot be transplanted reliably.

Other information

Not considered at risk in the wild.

Not typically subject to fire but can reshoot if fire is not too intense.

Cyathea – from the Ancient Greek ‘kyatheion‘ (meaning smal cup, referring to the compartment within the overall structure (sorus) that holds the spores.
cooperi – named by Ferdinand von Mueller in honour of Sir Daniel Cooper (1821-1902). Cooper was a Member of the old New South Wales Legislative Council from 1849 and of the new Legislative Assembly after responsible self-government was granted in 1856.


By Jeff Howes