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Topic: Fijian tree ferns

Is part of topic Ferns

Fiji is home to at least twelve species of tree fern, known locally as balabala.  Most belong to a broadly-defined Cyathea, whose scales distinguish it from Dicksonia which is hairy.

Cyathea lunulata is the prominent tree fern in the lowlands of Fiji, easily recognised by the pale scales covering the lower frond stalks.  Cyathea alta, C. decurrens, C. hornei, C. microlepidota, C. propinqua, and C. truncata are all fairly common.  Cyathea affinis and C. medullaris appear to be (at least largely) restricted in Fiji to the uplands.  Cyathea plagiostegia and C. subsessillis have been recorded from Fiji, but are very rare and are not covered below.

If the segregate genera of Cyathea are accepted, only C. decurrens remains in Cyathea sensu strictoCyathea affinis (as Alsophila tahitensis), C. alta, and C. plagiostegia would be treated in Alsophila, C. hornei in Gymnosphaera (or Alsophila), and the others in Sphaeropteris.

The only species of Dicksonia in Fiji is D. brackenridgei.

Calochlaena straminea, which is very common at forest margins and in other open areas, is related to Dicksonia but does not form a trunk.

Most of the species mentioned above are also found elsewhere in the tropical Pacific; Cyathea medullaris is even shared with New Zealand.  Only C. microlepidota, C. plagiostegia, and C. propinqua are confined to Fiji.

Fijian species that are not tree ferns but can form trunks or are very large are also listed below: Leptopteris wilkesiana, Angiopteris evecta, and Pleocnemia cumingiana.

These pages are based on personal observations, herbarium collections, and: Brownlie G. 1977. The pteridophyte Flora of Fiji. Cramer, Vaduz; Large MF, Braggins JE. 2004. Tree ferns. CSIRO Publishing, Australia.  This work was made possible by Matt von Konrat (Field Museum), Alivereti Naikatini, and Marika Tuiwawa (both University of the South Pacific).

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