Cyathea - Cyatheaceae

Cyathea manniana Hook.

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: P. Ballings

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten

Photo: BT. Wursten






Cyathea deckenii Kuhn
Alsophila manniana (Hook.) R. M. Tryon
Cyathea usambarensis Hieron.
Cyathea laurentiorum Christ
Cyathea sellae Pirotta
Alsophila deckenii (Kuhn) R.M.Tryon
Cyathea preussii Diels
Cyathea engleri Hier. ex Brause
Cyathea manniana Hook. var. preussii (Diels) Tardieu

Common name

Spiny tree fern


Caudex slender, 0.3-9 m × 10-15 cm, dark brown to almost black, throughout covered with harsh spines, in older ferns the lower stem eventually smooth, without aphlebia in the crown of the stem, occasionally sending down lateral "prop" stems which are eventually creeping and may form a new upright caudex. Fronds firmly papery, 5-10 in number, to 4 m long. Stipe spiny, 25-90 cm long, light to dark brown, bearing conical warts or black spines 2-4 mm long; scales to 20 x 6 mm, glossy, brown, entire, lanceolate in outline, margins fragile with irregularly projecting thin-walled cells. Lamina dark green, up to 2.4 m × 1.3 m, 2 to 3-pinnatifid, ovate in outline, basal pinnae not or little reduced. Pinnae 35-40 on each side of the rhachis, up to 52 × 20 cm, oblong, acute, pinnate into narrowly shortly attenuate pinnate pinnules; ultimate segments narrowly oblong-falcate, apex acute to sharply obtuse, margins entire to minutely crenate; upper surface dark green, glabrous, with minute, brown hair-like scales along the costae, lower surface pale green, glabrous but with brown, ovate scales scattered along the costules and costae; rhachis shiny brown with scattered small prickles, glabrous at maturity. Sori up to 9 per pinnule segment, round, close to the costules; indusium unequally cup-shaped with more or less permanent smooth edge or rather one-sided due to splitting, light brown.


Readily recognizable by the harshly spiny stem.


manniana: first collected by G. Mann, a German botanist .


Along mountain streams in evergreen forest, deep shade, often forming a secondary canopy in high rainfall areas, occasionaly going up into the tree heath zone.

Distribution worldwide

See African distribution.

Distribution in Africa

Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Dem. Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (incl. Bioko), Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan, Tanzania , Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Growth form



  • Burrows, J.E. (1990) Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies. Frandsen, Sandton. Page 87. (Includes a picture).
  • Edwards, Peter J. (2005) Cyatheaceae.Flora of Tropical East Africa, Pages 9 - 11. (Includes a picture).
  • Jacobsen, W.B.G. (1983) The Ferns and Fern Allies of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban and Pretoria. Pages 200 - 201. As Alsophila manniana (Hook.) R.M. Tryon (Includes a picture).
  • Kornas, J. (1979) Distribution and ecology of the Pteridophytes in Zambia. Polska Akademia Nauk Wydzial II Nauk Biologicznych. Page 81.
  • Roux, J.P. (2001) Conspectus of Southern African Pteridophyta.Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report, 13 Page 86.
  • Roux, J.P. (2009) Synopsis of the Lycopodiophyta and Pteridophyta of Africa, Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Strelitzia 23, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Pages 64 - 65. As Alsophila manniana (Hook.) R.M.Tyron
  • Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. (1970) Pteridophyta.Flora Zambesiaca, 0 Pages 72 - 74. (Includes a picture).
  • Tardieu-Blot, M.-L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.3.Flore du Cameroun, Page 70. (Includes a picture).
  • Thardieu-Blot, M.L. (1964) Ptéridophytes vol.8.Flore du Gabon, Pages 52 - 54. (Includes a picture).