T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Cyathea cunninghamii (Gully tree fern)

Kingdom:   Plantae
Division:    Pteridophyta
Class:        Pteridopsida
Order:       Cyatheales
Family:      Cyatheaceae
Genus:      Cyathea
Subgenus: Cyathea
Section:     Alsophila
Species:     C. cunninghamii
Binomial name: Cyathea cunninghamii
Synonyms:  Alsophila cunninghamii, Cyathea stelligera, Cyathea pulcherrima .
Common names: Gully tree fern, Slender tree fern, Ponga, Pünui.

Cyathea cunninghamii is a species of tree fern indigenous to New Zealand and grows throughout damp coastal and lowland gullies in lowland to montane forests (>1000 masl), In the North Island it is largely absent from the drier east coast. It is present in Northland, Auckland, Volcanic Plateau, Gisborne, Taranaki, Whanganui river and the southern NorthIsland. In the South Island it is confined to coastal and lowland areas in the Marlborough Sounds, north-west Nelson and Westland as far south as PoisonBay in northern Fiordland. It has also been occurs on the Chatham Islands. It inhabits sheltered cool, humid, shady gullies and stream banks from sea level up to about 200 masl. Cyathea cunninghamii also occurs in Australia (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania). It is known from single populations in south-east Queensland and south-east New South Wales, and is largely confined to Victoria and Tasmania.

Cyathea cunninghamii forms a tall slender brown trunk (6-20 cm in diameter) and can grow up to 20m in height and is covered in dark brown to black, appressed stipe bases in the upper part of the trunk, and stipe scars in the lower part; bearing scales near the apex.  The soft and delicate looking fronds are 3 m or more in length and are held horizontally with distal portion slightly decurved with the apex distinctly upturned. The fronds are susceptible to wind damage and frosts. The old fronds are persistent only on immature plants but they soon decay leaving a small oval stipe scar.