Trengwainton's giants

Giant tree ferns at Trengwainton, Cornwall

At Trengwainton there are two giant tree fern glades to wonder at as you wind your way around the garden. Containing mostly Dicksonia antarctica and some Dicksonia fibrosa, you might feel dwarfed by their huge fronds.

An ancient past

Originating from Tasmania, giant tree ferns are evocative of both lush tropics and an ancient past when dinosaurs roamed our planet. Ferns are descended from some of the oldest plants of Earth's history and have been found as fossils dating back nearly 400 million years. 

How did they get here?

Giant tree ferns have a fascinating history, having originally found their way to this country as ballast in ships returning from Australia. On arrival, they were discarded on the quayside of the docks, but it was soon noticed that this discarded ballast was growing new fronds and roots. They soon became features in Cornish gardens.
The tree ferns were able to do this because the trunk isn't made of wood but the dead bases of old leaves. The roots are produced from the crown and grow all the way down through the trunk into the soil. Basically, you can cut a tree fern trunk in half, stick it back in the ground and providing it has been kept moist, it will start to grow again.

Beware when buying tree ferns in garden centres

Huge swathes of Tasmania and south eastern Australia's temperate rain forests have been destroyed through the logging of tree ferns to sell in other parts of the world - including the UK. Some of the plants for sale may be up to 250 years old, so before buying please make sure they've been imported legally under licence.

Did you know?

Giant tree ferns reproduce through spores - each a dust-like cell so small that 25 lined up equal just a millimetre in length. They seed themselves freely at Trengwainton.