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Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy

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Photo Credit: Forest & Kim Starr



  • FAMILY Cyatheaceae
  • CATEGORY Shrubs, Vines, & Others

Australian tree fern (Sphaeropteris cooperi)

Ornamental tree fern that quickly escaped cultivation becoming naturalized in Hawaiian rainforests. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources has designated this species as one of Hawai`i's Most Invasive Horticultural Plants.

  • Large tree fern up to 40 ft tall with large (up to 18 ft long) triangular leaves made of lacy blades
  • Scaly, brown stems fall off when dead, leaving oval scars
  • White hairs on stalks (unlike native hapu`u, which has red hairs)
  • Trunk does not have the thick, soft fiber wrapping like the native hapu`u
  • Naturalized on Kaua`i, O`ahu, and Maui; native to Austalia
  • Wind spreads spores can travel over 7 miles from the parent plant


  • Fast growing and aggressively outcompetes native plants in the forest understory
  • Displaces native ferns, including the slower growing hapu`u
  • Will quickly spread far and become naturalized
  • Shades out forest understory, limiting plant growth and germination

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