Australian Native Ferns

Australian Native Ferns. Learn more about this fascinating area of the plant kingdom. Study from home and at your own pace. Suitable for amateur enthusiastic and commercial grows or those students who want to know more about Australian plants.

Course CodeVHT116
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Become an Australian Fern Expert

Learn which ferns occur naturally in Australia, how to identify them, where to obtain accurate information on them, how to propagate them, growing and using ferns in baskets, terrariums, and landscapes.

There are eight lessons including a special project in this course.  This course is designed as a detailed look at identification and culture of Australian Native Ferns. 

  • Learn propagation techniques
  • Learn classification
  • Emphasis is placed on the horticulturally valuable species
  • Study from and at your own pace

Comment from ACS Student:

I wondered at first if I could have learned what I needed to know just by reading up on ferns.  But I would never have agained the knowledge or interest simply through reading.  The assignments have made me look far more closely at what I'm doing."
Sandra Crump, Australia, Australian Native Ferns course.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification, general characteristics of the ferns, main groups, information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
  2. Culture
    • Planting, mulching, watering, pest & disease, feeding, pruning, protection from wind, salt air, etc.
  3. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating ferns. Propagation of selected varieties.
  4. The Most Commonly Grown Varieties.
    • Maidenhairs, tree ferns, stags, elks, common ground ferns.
  5. Other Important Groups
    • Blechnum, Nephrolepis, Pteris, etc.
  6. Other Varieties
    • Hares foot ferns, Bracken, Fans.
  7. Making the Best Use of Native Ferns
    • In containers, in the ground, as indoor plants, growing and showing, growing for profit (to sell the plants or what they produce).
  8. Special Assignment
    • A major project on one genera of ferns.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Discuss the diverse range of ferns native to Australia and the plant naming and classification system.
  • Describe the cultural requirements of ferns
  • Propagate ferns and identify various propagating media and methods.
  • Describe a range of ferns that are commonly grown and freely available at nurseries.
  • Explain the significance of a range of important Australian fern species
  • Differentiate less common species of Australian fern genera
  • Demonstrate more in depth the knowledge acquired through research, of a specific group of ferns.



The phylum "Pterophyta" comprises all "true ferns", most of which are shade loving plants of moist places. There are exceptions though, and fern species can be found in most environments across the world, except the absolute extremes of desert and arctic areas.

There are 10,000 species of ferns throughout the world of which Australia has around 450, belonging to at least 118 genera. More than 300 species are native to Queensland, around 170 in N.S.W., 118 in Victoria, 94 in Tasmania, 50 in Sth Australia and 65 in Western Australia. In Victoria, ferns grow in almost every region...even the dry mallee. Some species of ferns are tiny, while others can reach a height of 40 ft.


Family Genera (some)
Dicksoniaceae (Tree Ferns)  Dicksonia
Cyatheaceae (Tree Ferns)  Cyathea
Hymenophyllaceae (Filmy Ferns) Mecodium, Hymenophyllum
Adiantaceae (Maidenhair) Adiantum, Cheilanthes  
Dennstaedtiaceae (Ground ferns)

Asplenium,Nephrolepsis, Blechnum, Pteris, Culcita, Pteredium, Hypolepsis

Gleicheniaceae  Sticherus (fan), Gleichenia (coral)
Schizaeceae (Comb ferns) Schizeae
Elks and stags


There are also several aquatic (water dwelling) ferns including Azolla, Nardoo and Salvinia.


Note: There is disagreement amongst experts with respect to many classifications of ferns. In many cases, there is no right and wrong, there is only differing opinions. As long as there are good reasons behind each opinion, it is at this stage valid to use it.  The classification above is not comprehensive, nor is it necessarily the only way to classify these ferns.



About 450 Australian fern species are found predominately in the moister parts of the continent, with the largest percentage found along the eastern coast, in the south-east, and Tasmania, with a few extending to drier inland areas. They are found in a variety of situations such as tropical rainforests (often growing as epiphytes on trees and rocks), in gullies in cool southern forests, in sub alpine areas, in exposed coastal areas and tropical mangrove swamps, and in crevices in rocky outcrops in dry inland areas.

They can be found growing as epiphytes, as aquatics (floating ferns such as Azolla) and as terrestrials (growing in the ground). They vary in form from tiny filmy ferns such as Hymenophyllum to tall, woody trunked species such as Cyathea and Dicksonia, from spreading plants that form large colonies (Pteridium, Culcita, Histiopteris) to single tuft like plants, and to climbers and scramblers (Gleichenia).

Australian ferns include a few which occur outside of Australia, some that are tropical, and others which are native to temperate regions.

Ferns do not have flowers or fruits; but they do have stems, roots and leaves.
The stem (rhizome) is often below the ground and insignificant. From the stem grows numerous leaves (fronds) and wiry roots.



  • Nurserymen
  • Landscapers
  • Land Managers
  • Horticulturists
  • Gardeners
  • Plant Collectors
  • Environmentalists
  • Anyone with a passion for Australian ferns
  • Professionals, Tradesmen and Amateurs

 This course will grow your understanding and awareness of Australian Ferns, how to grow them and use them in the landscape or as container plants. It will lay a foundation for a life of ongoing learning; and for anyone working with plants, enhance your career and business prospects.



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Rosemary Davies

Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
Adriana Fraser

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer , teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li
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