Habitat: Rainforest understoreys with very rich soils ( mainly volcanic) and a warm wet climate
Size: Fronds up to 7 metres long, trunk up to 3m high and 1m across
Conservation status: Least concern in Queensland, vulnerable in Northern Territory
Main threats: Habitat loss, climate change
While several rainforest plant species have thrived for millions of years, ferns boast an even more remarkable longevity. Tracing back to a staggering 325 million years in the fossil record, ferns stand as a testament to time's passage. They hold the distinction of being among the earliest forms of vascular plants on Earth — plants that internally circulate water. They were around before flowering plants, conifers, and cycads, and exhibit a more primitive method of reproduction.
The king fern, scientifically known as Angiopteris evecta, presents a deceiving appearance, resembling a palm crown emerging directly from the ground. In truth, it is a vestige of a fern from the late Paleozoic era. While it stands as the sole representative of its genus in Australia, it also finds its home in other corners of Southeast Asia and Oceania. Its fronds, possibly among the longest worldwide for a fern, can extend up to 7 metres. Noteworthy places to catch a glimpse of king ferns include the Cape Tribulation roadside and the Nandroya Falls trail within the Palmerston section of Wooroonooran National Park near the Maalan Cloud Forest.
This remarkable specimen was found in the Wooroonooran National Park on the Atherton Tablelands.