Cyathea dryopteroides is a small tree fern about 2 feet tall with a trunk of an inch in diameter. Fronds (technical name for fern leaves) are 3 feet long.
Several botanists have classified this species in the Alsophila genus, others in the Cyathea genus. In this information, we classify it as Cyathea, according to the most recent classification of the species. Like all ferns, this species reproduces by spores. Plants in state of reproduction as well as individuals of different sizes and in different stages of development have been observed. These two observations suggest that the species is reproducing and is incorporating more individuals to the population.
This fern grows only in the type of forest known as Delfin Forest, in the peaks of the highest mountains of the Cordillera Central Mountain Range in Puerto Rico. In this type of forest, trees are short in height, grow slowly, and have twisted branches and thick leaves. Many of these characteristics are related to environmental factors, such as wind exposure, precipitation and soil characteristics, among others. Some areas in this type of forest are made up almost exclusively of Mountain Palm, Prestoea montana. Cyathea grows in regions of Mountain Palms in the lower part of the forest, in the understory, which is less exposed to sun and wind.
This species is unique to Puerto Rico and grows at elevations over 2,700 feet. The species was discovered in Peñuelas in 1915. Later it was discovered in Monte Jayuya, Cerro Rosa in Ciales, and Mount Guilarte. It has not been seen recently in the town of Peñuelas and it is believed that the species disappeared there.
Cyathea dryopteroides is seriously threatened by the destruction of its habitat. Part of it has been modified by the construction of antennas and other communication installations in the highest peaks of our island. In previous years, several of our public forests have also been used as military training areas, human activity that seriously disturbs vegetation.
This plant was included in the list of endangered species in 1987. Because the habitat where the species is growing is very particular, the priority is to prevent its destruction. Through habitat protection we help solve this species` problem. It is important to prohibit certain human activities and limit others in places where there are Cyathea populations.
Proctor, G.R. 1989. Ferns of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands. The New York Botanical Garden, New York.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1990. Ilex cookie and Cyathea dryopteroides Recovery Plan. Atlanta, Georgia. 22 pp.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: August 27, 2014.