Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Bowenia serrulata (W.Bull) Chamb.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Leaves. © Australian Plant Image Index (APII). Photographer: R. Hill.
Cone. © Australian Plant Image Index (APII). Photographer: R. Hill.

Chamberlain, C.J. (1912) The Botanical Gazette 54 : 419.

Common name

Butchers Fern; Byfield Fern


Usually produces cones as a shrubby plant about 1 m tall but only the leaves are above ground level. The true stem is below the soil surface. Stem elongate to 25 cm diameter with long taproot and 5-20 short leaf- and cone-bearing branches.


Leaves 5-30 in the crown. Compound leaf petiole to about 1 m or taller. Compound leaf spreading to 100-200 cm long by 100 cm broad. Leaflet margins sharply and regularly serrate. Leaflet blades about 7-15 x 1.2-4.5 cm, lanceolate to ovate, asymmetrical particularly towards the base. Upper surface of the compound leaf rhachis (both primary and secondary) with a ridge down the middle and a groove or channel on each side. Venation longitudinal and parallel without a midrib. Leaflets about 30-200 or more per compound leaf.


Male cones pedunculate and raised slightly above ground level, female sessile. Male cones: sporophylls in a cone about 5-7 x 2.5-3 cm, produced at the base of the plant just above ground level, peduncle about 70 mm long; anthers or pollen sacs (microsporangia) about 50-70, sessile, borne on the underside of each cone scale +/- at random. Female cones: megasporophylls in a sessile cone about 10 x 10 cm; ovules borne on the underside of the cone scales, two ovules per cone scale. Outer surface of each cone scale clothed in numerous short hair-like dark brown glands.


Seeds produced in a globular cone about 10 x 10 cm. Seeds about 32 x 18 mm. Cones raised slightly above ground level.


Features not available.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Queensland, occurs in CEQ. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 700 m. Grows as an understory shrub in undisturbed areas, in open forest or wet sclerophyll forest but occasionally found in rain forest.

Natural History & Notes

Description adapted from Flora of Australia Vol. 48.

Leaf material poisonous to sheep and cattle causing death and or staggers. Everist (1974).

This easily grown plant has been in cultivation for many years. It makes an attractive potted plant for indoor use.

Bowenia spectabilis var. serrulata W.Bull, A Retail List of New Beautiful & Rare Plants offered by William Bull : v, 4(1878), Type: the plate, W. Bull, Catal. t. 5 (1878); illustrated from a cultivated plant. Bowenia spectabilis var. serrulata Andre, L'Illustration Horticole 26 : 184(1879), Type: originaire des memes contrees,. Bowenia spectabilis var. serrata F.M.Bailey, A Synopsis of the Queensland Flora : 501(1883), Type: Queensland, Rockhampton. [Given by F.M.Bailey, Queensland Fl. 5 (1902) 1507 as Maryvale, Rockhampton, A. Thozet.]. Bowenia spectabilis var. serrulata Anon., Illustrirte Garten-Zeitung 23: 99(1879), Type: Sie stammt von Queensland (Australien) verlangt das temperirte Haus und wurde von Bull in den Handel gebracht.
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