Giant fern

Angiopteris evecta

''Angiopteris evecta'', commonly known as the giant fern, is a rare plant occurring in eastern and northern Australia and the Malay Peninsula. Also found growing in nearby islands such as Borneo, Sumatra, New Guinea and various places in Polynesia, Melanesia and Madagascar.
Unfurling frond of world's largest fern Native to the east and north of this country, (listed as endangered here in New South Wales)...also Indonesia, Madagascar and Pacific Islands. Angiopteris evecta, known commonly as the giant fern, is a large evergreen fern that has huge bipinnate fronds growing from a large rhizomatous root.

The fronds are the largest known among ferns, growing to between 5 to 7 m in length, making a spectacular display and lovely dappled shade on a summer's day. This is one of the best examples of primitive plant forms still living today with some fossilised fronds being found in rocks around 300 million years old.
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The huge mature fronds measure up to 9 metres long. These largest ones are apparently found in Queensland where the lamina or blade can be up to 23 feet in length with the petiole or stalk being an additional 6 ft 6 in long. 29 ft 6 in fronds have also been reported for the variety A. e. teysmanniana in Java.

The succulent petioles, again in Queensland, can be up to four in thick, and in the variety A e. microura of the Solomon Islands the petiole can be up to 8 ft 9 in in length, joined to the trunk or caudex by a pulvinus which can be up to 8 inches thick that serves to raise and lower the frond in response to weather conditions.

This is the largest pulvinus of any known plant. At the base of each frond, surrounding the pulvinus like two catcher's mits, is a pair of fleshy stipules. A plant of the variety A. e palmiformis, native to the Philippines but growing at the Lyon Arboretum, Oahu, Hawai'i in June 1987 had stipules up to 9.25 inches long by 5.75 inches wide.

These are the largest stipules of any known plant. The fronds originate from a large thick rootstock, or caudex typically up to 150 cm high, but occasionally as much as ten feet in height, and up to 3.25 feet or perhaps even 6 ft 7 in in thickness. An individual with 29 ft 6 in fronds emerging from a caudex 18 inches thick could potentially have a crown spread of 61 feet, the greatest of any tree fern.


''Angiopteris evecta'' is the type species of the genus ''Angiopteris''. It was originally described as ''Polypodium evectum'' by Georg Forster in 1786, before being reclassified and given its current binomial name in 1796 by Georg Franz Hoffmann. The species name is the Latin adjective ''evectus'' "swollen" or "inflated", probably a reference to its huge, bulbous pulvini. Common names include giant fern, king fern, oriental vessel fern, and mule's foot fern. In the Malay speaking nations it is called ''paku gajah''.


Listed as endangered in New South Wales, where it has been recorded growing in sub tropical rainforest, in the valley of the Tweed River. It is an invasive species in Hawaii and Jamaica.


''Angiopteris evecta'' can be grown in well-drained moist sites in the garden with some shade. It is very difficult to propagate by spores but the stipules from the frond base can be removed and will form a new plant in around a year in a medium of sand and peat.


The 1889 book 'The Useful Native Plants of Australia records Indigenous Australians ate the pith of this tree fern.


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Status: Unknown
SpeciesA. evecta
Photographed in