This species is quite distinct from D. antarctica and D. fibrosa, and it is probably my favorite of the Dicksonias. It can be found over quite a large part of the South Island of New Zealand, except in the coldest areas, often not far from Cyathea smithii. It grows in full sun above the Franz Josef Glacier and Fiordland, one of the wettest places on Earth. In sunnier climates they prefer a bit of shade, and do not tolerate heat well. Nor is it quite as cold hardy as D. antarctica or D. fibrosa--in my observation, temperatures near 24°F will do it some damage. But it is still hardy enough to do well outdoors in most of Britain and the Pacific Northwest with the standard protection procedures. It is in cultivation, though rare, in Britain and the western United States.
What distinguishes it from the aforementioned species is its decidedly slender trunk, the stipes covered with hairs that are a soft brownish-grey, and a beautiful crown of gracefully arching fronds up to 7' long that have a whitish undersurface. The trunk does not tend to form aerial roots, and the old stipes can always be seen on the trunk in an attractive pattern. Interestingly, it also sends up offshoots near the base of the trunk, or sometimes as far away as 4 feet from the parent. An added bonus is its relatively fast growth as Dicksonias go, 3" per year being typical of a healthy specimen with an ultimate height of about 20'. A unique feature of this species is its ability to resprout from dormant adventitious buds lower down in the trunk or ground if the top is destroyed by cold. This species is happiest if it is never allowed to dry out--in the wild, the dead fronds cling to the trunk to prevent it from losing moisture.
Dicksonia squarrosa at Fancy Fronds Nursery in Gold Bar, Washington. Although this specimen is reasonably healthy, the size of its fronds is drastically reduced from prolonged pot culture. Note also the sucker coming up at the base of the parent plant.
Dicksonia squarrosa in my garden in Olympia, Washington. I don't think I am going to plant this in the ground until I get some more sporelings going, since I would not want to lose it in a cold winter. But, I have now put it in a nicer container than that ugly red pot. Photo by the author.
Trunk of the above plant; photo by the author.
A young Dicksonia squarrosa in my greenhouse in Olympia, Washington. The whitish undersides of the fronds are especially evident in this picture. Photo by the author.
Fronds of Dicksonia squarrosa in my garden in Olympia, Washington. Photo by the author.
Trunk of Dicksonia squarrosa with Tillandsias at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, Seattle, Washington. Photo by the author.
Dicksonia squarrosa, close-up of crozier. Photo by the author.
A potted Dicksonia squarrosa in my garden in Olympia, Washington, showing the hairy brown stipes. Photo by the author.
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