Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cyathea cooperi: the dinosaurs fed on its ancestors

The tree fern Cyathea cooperi, synonymous of  Sphaeropteris cooperi, is down from the giant ferns that formed huge forests millions of years ago. Their tender fronds were the favorite food of herbivorous dinosaurs, many of them with long necks, as is currently the giraffes, allowed them to reach the central bud of tender ferns.
The Cyathea cooperi is Australian, native of New South Wales and Queensland. The man, captivated by her antediluvian beauty, has spread to every country in the world with a temperate climate similar to its place of origin, both in botanical gardens and in urban gardens and individuals. It has become naturalized in Hawaii and the Azores. Not too heavy frost resist and prefers to grow in the shade or partial shade of tall trees, and direct sun will burn the fronds. It is essentially a fern understory. Under optimal conditions can reach 15 meters high with a trunk 30 inches thick.

Cyathea cooperi beautiful about 4 meters in a Cryptomeria forest at Caldeira do Faial in the Azores Archipelago. On these atlantic islands, wet and temperate with high humidity, it has naturalized and forms mixed forests with plants native to the Macaronesian laurel and other plants introduced as the Japanese conifer Cryptomeria japonica, rhododendron, hydrangea, etc ...

Group of young Cyathea cooperi of two meters high surrounded by giant Cryptomeria japonica in a forest on the Island of Faial.

Curious picture of three introduced and invasive plants, Cyathea cooperi, Cryptomeria japonica and Rhododendron indicum, which by themselves are thick forests in the Azores, greatly hindering the survival of native trees and shrubs typical of the laurel forest.

Three Cyathea cooperi in a garden in the city of Funchal on the Island of Madeira. Grow in the partial shade of towering palm trees that protect them from intense sun of this beautiful subtropical island.

Specimen of about three feet high that grows in the shade of giant trees in the beautiful Orotava Botanical Garden in the Canary island of Tenerife, specializing in tropical and subtropical plants. This garden is a must for all lovers of exotic plants. Species diversity is enormous.

Another specimen of the garden seen against the light. (Double click on the picture to enlarge)

Detail of the insertion in the trunk of the petioles of the fronds. Particularly striking is the abundant pilosity consisting of long straw-colored woolly paleae.
Scars in the form of comb honey left by the petioles on the trunk and give a great beauty.

Frond new in May with the typical coiled shape, which follows the Fibonacci mathematical sequence.

Very large sporangium Cyathea cooperi after spore dispersal.

Spiculated surface triangular spores that germinate easily.

Cyathea cooperi tiny frond finished her first birth at five months of sowing the spores.

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