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Starr 040713-0079 Cibotium menziesii.jpg
Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi (Cibotium menziesii)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pteridophyta
Class: Polypodiopsida /
 Pteridopsida (disputed)
Order: Cyatheales
Family: Cibotiaceae
sensu Smith et al. (2006)
Genus: Cibotium
Kaulfuss (1824)

See text.

Cibotium (from the Greek kibootion, meaning chest or box) is a genus of 11 species of tropical tree fern—subject to much confusion and revision—distributed fairly narrowly in Hawaiʻi (four species, plus a hybrid, collectively known as hāpuʻu), Southeast Asia (five species), and the cloud forests of Central America and Mexico (two species). Some of the species currently listed in the literature seem to be synonyms or local-variant subspecies. Cibotium glaucum, from Hawaiʻi, is the most frequently encountered Cibotium species in the horticultural trade, together with its sibling species Cibotium chamissoi and the potentially huge Cibotium menziesii. The remaining Hawaiian Cibotium, C. nealiae, is a 1-metre (3.3 ft) dwarf variety, restricted to the island of Kauaʻi that is never seen in the horticultural trade. Precise identification of Cibotium species is difficult, although all have shiny and rather waxy fronds when viewed from above, with varying degrees of powdery-pale blush when seen from underneath. The natural habitat of Cibotium is among the dripping trees and stream gulleys of the rainforests on Hawaiʻi's windward volcanic slopes.

Pressure on Hawaiian Cibotium habitats comes from development encroaching on the forested areas, especially the more accessible, lower-lying areas which are commercially attractive for land clearance. A less obvious threat comes from an invasive introduced tree fern species: Cyathea cooperi (the most popular garden tree fern in the United States), which has escaped from the islands' suburban gardens and now outcompetes the endemic flora. Wind-blown spores from this rapidly growing Australian import can migrate many miles into pristine Cibotium forests. This is a fairly recent phenomenon, but one which may eventually have grave consequences for the tree fern ecosystem in Hawaiʻi.

The other Cibotium species that often surface in botanical collections are Cibotium schiedei and Cibotium regale (Mexico), plus Cibotium barometz (Asia). The last species is best known for its role in ancient medicine, and even today its hairs are a staple ingredient in ointments used in natural Chinese remedies.[citation needed]

The medieval world was beguiled by stories that claimed C. barometz, the "Scythian lamb", was half sheep and half vegetable.[citation needed]

No publicly accessible Cibotium collections are growing outdoors in the United Kingdom - although they are sometimes seen in California garden designs, but two outstanding glasshouse collections are kept at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the RBG Edinburgh in Scotland.



  1. ^ Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989). "Hāpuʻu-ʻiʻi, Hawaiian treefern" (PDF). United States Forest Service. 
  2. ^ Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989). "Hāpuʻu pulu, Hawaiian treefern" (PDF). United States Forest Service. 

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