Growing tree fern from spores



Two common tree ferns (Cyathea dregei)  in Kirstenbosch Gardens Cape Town (Image: Andrew Massyn via Wikimedia Commons)


2015: As a part of my new job slogan “I am here and here I will remain” I decided to grow tree ferns, which take decades to mature. I bought mixed  spores from Thompson and Morgan. I decided to plant half and keep half in the fridge just in case. But I laughed about the plans when I saw that the spores are so small that it’s all or nothing.  I poured spores on top of the moist soil, in a plastic bag to prevent drying and set on a semi-dark table on 15/6. The room temperature is about 20. I looked at the pot regularly but instead of little plants saw only green haze. I thought it was moss, which self-seeds happily in carnivorous plants-propagating pots.

Two months later I decided to check what I did wrong, as ferns supposed to appear after ten days (up to a year, that’s why I didn’t check earlier). And discovered that they supposed to look like a green haze in the beginning!


New fern prothalli, Picture by Hardy Fern Foundation

Tree fern thalli

A lonely tree fern

The beauty of the newly emergent ferns picture from Hardy Fern Foundation site below can be appreciated after comparing it with my own. I can see that the greenish blob in the middle of my picture above the heart-shaped soil indentation is a little plant, but you will have to believe me.

May 2017: Two years later

Growing prothalli from spores is not a problem. Two years after seeding one pot I keep discovering them in random pots around. The problem is getting a mature plant out of them.

My workplace is not a good place to grow ferns. I brought a couple in, removing them from a wall, where they would have died eventually. I bought one. They dry out due to central heating and rooms getting hot from the sun. They recover eventually.

My first tree fern looked like a normal one, unfurling leaves. When it was about a year old, it dried out. I have several candidates now, which I started removing from where they appear and planting in jars with transparent lids of clingfilm on top to prevent drying.  The question is what to do when they outgrow my biggest vessel – transfer them outside?


Two prothalii in top right corner and a fern growing true leaves in the center. Red structure in the background is a paperclip.




Jar A, two ferns



Jar B, the fern looks different from all above. Accessorized with a mouse skufrom an an owl pellet . I imagine it’s a dinosaur skull – the tree ferns were around then.


Biggest tree fern, may 2017

The biggest tree fern is about 1 years old







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