The Forest Queen

The white underside of Cyathea dealbata. Photograph by Leon Perrie. CC BY-NC-ND licence
The white underside of Cyathea dealbata. Photograph by Leon Perrie. CC BY-NC-ND licence

She’s elegant, she’s regal, and she’s exotic. She’s the Silver Tree Fern, Alsophila tricolor, aka. Cyathea dealbata, , and she’s now living at Hidden Forest Nursery in Sebastopol, awaiting your visit.

Silver Tree Ferns are native only to New Zealand, where they form majestic forests. This highly revered plant is an icon in Kiwi culture, having become the unofficial national symbol, and appearing in many historic emblems and promotional images.

Is this tree fern rare? Yes and no.

Mike Boss with Queen Fronds
Mike Boss with Queen Fronds

In New Zealand, where it is known as ponga, katote, or simply silver fern, it is among the most common of ferns. Here, in Sonoma County, it’s an entirely different story. It is so rare that it is unlikely that you’ll see another one here, or anywhere in Northern California. If you do find one hidden away in some garden, please let us know!

This particular specimen was transplanted from Occidental to Sebastopol in February. She has a thick trunk that stands about three feet tall, and is covered with dark-brown, fuzzy hairs. From the trunk, fresh green fronds rise on arching stems, forming an elegant canopy. These fronds are now only six feet long and two feet wide, but once she adjusts to her throne-like planter, new ones will unfurl up to 12’ long. The leaves shimmer on their undersides due to silvery white hairs, imparting a mysterious beauty worthy of her name: The Forest Queen.

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To see The Forest Queen, visit Hidden Forest Nursery at 3970 Azalea Lane, Sebastopol, where you can find her at the end of a boardwalk through a swamp, across a bridge over a creek, and in her camellia-enclosed chamber. Open Thursday-Monday 9:00-4:00. www.hiddenforestnursery.com

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