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primordial tree fern dell in golden gate park

Here’s a great blog entry from landscape historian Heath Massey. It appeared May 27 in her blog “Views from the Thicket.”

golden gate park: views from the thicket

tree fern dell sketch Tree Fern Dell in Golden Gate Park (sketch by Heath Massey)

The shady Tree Fern Dell in Golden Gate Park is so different in mood from the sunny, flower-filled Conservatory Valley on the other side of JFK Drive.  But this jungly dell well represents the flip side of the Victorian sensibility, a fascination with the exotic and the primordial, with far-flung adventure and voyages of exploration, places where evolution took a different course.

The historic origins of this collection are somewhat murky;  it seems likely that it grew over time, under the direction of John McLaren, perhaps enhanced by planting from the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 and further amended in 1939 in when the Conservatory Valley was redesigned.

Most of the trees in this grove are Tasmanian tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica),  native to Tasmania as well as Eastern Australia (from Queensland south to Victoria).  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:  “Tree ferns have a lengthy fossil record stretching back to the Triassic Period (251 to…

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