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Plant Collections

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.

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

Asplenium australasicum Bird's Nest Fern

Ground Fern

Dicksonia antarctica Soft Tree Fern

Tree Fern

Cyathea australis Rough Tree Fern

Tree Fern

Cyathea dealbata Silver Tree Fern

Tree Fern

Asplenium oblongifolium Shining Spleenwort

Ground Fern

Cyathea medullaris Black Tree Fern

Tree Fern

Microsorum scandens Fragrant Fern

Ground Fern

Doodia aspera Prickly Rasp Fern

Ground Fern

Blechnum nudum Fishbone Water Fern

Ground 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.