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Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Coral Fern


Coral fern: Gleichenia dicarpa

  • Coral Ferns are scrambling ferns, which form tangled masses.
  • The multi-forked fronds, which form almost geometrical patterns, can grow to 4 m on a long, brown woolly stalk.
  • They are found in large colonies in a variety of wet sunny sites. 
  • They like to have their roots in water and their fronds in the sun.

Courtesy of: Environmental Protection Agency, Cairns.

Also known as the ‘Pouched Coral fern’ or the ‘Tangle fern’, it is characterized by the following:

  • Rhizome long-creeping, much branched, slender, dark, wiry; fronds forked several times, up to 4 m tall; pinnae up to 4 cm long, dull green, pinnatifid with numerous tiny pinnules; pinnules 1.0 – 1.5 mm long, the margins strongly revolute, forming a pouch; usually two sporangia in one corner or each pinnacle.

  • It is a common and very widespread species that forms large tangled thickets in a variety of situations, but usually where the roots are wet and the fronds are exposed to sun. 

  • In some areas it forms colonies and covers large areas in a tangled, Impenetrable mass.

Confusing species: 

  • G. microphylla.

  •  G. rupestris.

Distinguishing features: 

  • The tall, scrambling habit; the pouched pinnules containing two sporangia.


  • Northern and Southern Qld, NSW, Vic, Tas; also NZ, N Cal, south-east Asia to Malaysia.


  • Resents disturbance, large specimens are impossible to shift. 

  • Very small plants move easily and adapt well to pot or tub culture, making attractive specimens.

  • Will not tolerate the root system drying out.

  • Can be established in a wet sunny position.

  •  Easy to raise from spores.

Jones. D.L, Clemesha. S.C., Australian Ferns and Fern Allies, 1980

Additional Information:

  • In the same group are the 'Club Moss' or 'Coral Fern' Lycopodium spp. that look fairly similar, but grow from the ground. Both groups develop sporangia at the end of their branches that resembles little paws, and thus the scientific name Lycopodium means 'wolf's feet'.

    Script: Courtesy of  Damon Ramsey BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

Additional Coral Fern photos

Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
PH & Fax: 07 4095 3754 International: 61 7 4095 3754

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