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Fern Gully

The Fern Gully is a natural gully within the gardens providing a perfect micro climate for ferns. Visitors can follow a stream via the winding paths in the cool surrounds under the canopy of lush tree ferns.

In designing the Fern Gully, William Guilfoyle sought to recreate the fern gullies of the Australian bush. Fossil evidence shows that the soft tree fern dates back to when Australia was part of the super continent Gondwana. Ferns are one of the first plants to re-generate after hot wild fires that kill many other plants.

Over the last ten years Fern Gully has suffered from pressures of drought, 30,000 roosting flying foxes, and failing infrastructure. As a result a Fern Gully restoration project is now in place that aims to reverse this trend through a total management approach that considers issues of public amenity, accessibility, tree health, and water quality, over a Three Stage process.

The renovation will include a range of landscape improvements to the whole Fern Gully precinct.

Stage One of these improvements includes a new steel board walk and five new timber bridges that will dramatically improve the visitor experience through the Gully and further enhance its picturesque appearance.

Stage Two will focus on the restoration of the Fern Gully Rest House, while

Stage Three will be the creation of a health and wellbeing garden. The Fern Gully, with its leafy appeal and cool microclimate is the perfect environment for a series of meditative spaces where the visitor will be able to sit quietly and take in the ambiance of the Gardens. Each space will include a reflective water feature and will be accessed via a series of secondary paths that will loop back to the main boardwalk. 

All this is made possible by the generous donations of our supporters.

Best Viewed

  • Spring


Asplenium australasicum

Bird's Nest Fern

Doodia aspera

Prickly Rasp Fern

Asplenium oblongifolium

Shining Spleenwort

Plant Census

Find out what plants grow at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

Key Plants

Tree Ferns

Asplenium oblongifolium   Shining Spleenwort

Cyathea australis   Rough Tree Fern

Cyathea dealbata   Silver Tree Fern

Cyathea x marescens   Skirted Tree Fern (New)

Cyathea medullaris   Black Tree Fern

Dicksonia antarctica   Soft Tree Fern

Rumohra adiantiformis    Leathery Shield Fern (New)

Todea barbara    King Fern (New)


Ground Ferns

Asplenium australasicum   Bird's Nest Fern

Blechnum fluviatile   Ray Water Fern (New)

Blechnum patersonii   Strap Water Fern

Blechnum nudum   Fishbone Water Fern

Doodia aspera   Prickly Rasp Fern

Microsorum scandens   Fragrant Fern

Curator Notes

  1. Established ferns respond well to liquid fertilizing in growing season (spring).
  2. Remove dead tree fern fronds when necessary.
  3. The soft tree fern is one of the oldest plant species in the world.


  • 1850s - First plantings by Ferdinand von Mueller.
  • 1857 - Mueller built aviary in Fern Gully.
    • Gully landscaped with exotic species transplanted from other parts of RBG Melbourne and fern and exotic species transported from Victoria and Queensland, including Brisbane Botanical Gardens, Mt Macedon, New Zealand and Cape Otway.
    • Minor path system installed.
    • Pump installed to circulate water from bottom to top of gully.
    • Large Lombardy Poplar fell during storm.
  • 1981 - Grey Headed Flying Foxes present in Fern Gully in small numbers.
  • 1983 - Grey Headed Flying Foxes regularly roosting in the trees, but still migrating north in winter.
  • 1985 - Grey Headed Flying Foxes roosting in Fern Gully all year round with only half migrating north for winter.
  • 1994 - Misting and irrigation system installed.
  • 1995 - Study undertaken to determine long term effects of the colony on the Fern Gully.
  • 2002 - Grey Headed Flying Fox numbers peak in March at 30,000.
  • 2003 - Grey Headed Flying Fox relocation program undertaken.
  • 2004 - Grey Headed Flying Fox numbers in the Gardens at 0.
  • 2004 - Sponsorship provided from Esso Australia for several projects.
  • 2015 - Donations allow for the Fern Gully Restoration project to begin. Stage One completed.