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Cibotium glaucum
Alternative Botanical Names
Cibotium splendens
Common Names
Hapu'u pulu
Blond Tree Fern
Female Tree Fern
Hawaiian Tree Fern
Potential or Traditional Uses
Photo of Cibotium glaucum
The trunk of the tree fern Cibotium glaucum is most often 6 to 10 feet tall, but it can reach 25 feet. This tree fern tends to be shorter at elevations above 4,800 feet. The diameter of mature trunks ranges from 8 inches to 2 feet.

The fronds of Cibotium glaucum arch and can grow as long as 9 feet. They are smooth and whitish underneath. They are singly divided, but the divisions are deeply lobed. Soft, golden hairs cover the young fronds and the stalks of mature fronds. The spores form in pouches at the ends of the small veins. (Bornhorst 1996; Smith 1999a; Valier 1995)

Habitat and Geographic Range
Cibotium glaucum is a Hawaiian endemic tree fern. It is particularly abundant on the island of Hawai'i, but is found on all the major Hawaiian Islands. It is most common is moist to wet forests at elevations ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 feet. Overharvesting for orchid media and landscape use and clearing for development have drastically reduced the populations even on the island of Hawai'i. (Smith 1999a; Stibbe 1997; Valier 1995)
Propagation by Spores
Cibotium glaucum can be grown from spores. Spores should be collected from mature fronds of healthy plants. The most mature fronds are generally those lower down on the plant. The spore containers (sori) on these fronds should appear full and plump. The frond branches (pinnae) should be removed from the main frond stem and dried in paper bags, envelopes, or folded newspaper packets. Place each frond piece in its own paper container with the spore side down. To ensure that the spores dry quickly and do not mold, place the containers in a single layer in a warm, dry location for 2 or 3 days. The ripe spores will fall off of the fronds. The spores can be separated from the remaining debris using a very fine screen or seive.

Sanitation is an important part of sowing fern spores to prevent both fungal infections and cross contamination by other fern spores. Smith uses a commercial mix containing sphagnum peat, vermiculite, and perlite (Pro-Mix). He moistens this mix with distilled water and microwaves it in a lidded container for 10 minutes on the high setting of the microwave oven.

After being heated in the microwave, the planting mix is spread in a sterile plastic tray with a clear plastic lid ("humididome") and allowed to cool. The cleaned spores are spread on the surface of the cooled mix and moistened with a fine spray of distilled water. Smith suggests that mixing the spores with water and spraying them onto the planting mix can provide more even distribution. Replace the lid as quickly as possible to prevent contamination.

Clean, dry spores can be stored in paper envelopes or packets. Place the envelopes in an air tight container and place it in the refrigerator. (Smith 1999b)

Propagation by Cuttings
Cibotium glaucum can be grown from the side shoots that form on the main trunks. This species of Cibotium develops side shoots more frequently than other species. Success generally depends on the size of the side shoot, but plants from side shoots tend to grow slower than plants grown from spores. (Bornhorst 1996; Smith 1999a)
Propagation by Division
Not applicable.
Propagation by Air Layers
Not applicable.
Propagation by Grafting
Not applicable.
Propagation by Tissue Culture
No information located to date.
Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1996. Growing native Hawaiian plants: a how-to guide for the gardener. Honolulu: The Bess Press. p. 74-76.

Hensley, David, Rhonda Stibbe, Norman Bezona, and Fred Rauch. 1997. Hapuu (Hawaiian tree fern), Ornamentals and Flowers, OF-16. Honolulu: Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. (Also available as a PDF file at Free CTAHR Publications.)

Smith, Art. [1999a.] Cibotium Glaucum .... Tree Ferns in Hawaii [Web site]. [Cited 17 February 2000]. Available from glaucum.htm .

Smith, Art. [1999b.] Tree Fern Sport Notes ..... Tree Ferns in Hawaii [Web site]. [Cited 17 February 2000]. Available from

Valier, Kathy. 1995. Ferns of Hawai'i. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 53.

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The image in this record is used with permission from Art Smith's Web site "Tree Ferns in Hawaii" at

Last updated:
1 April 2001

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