Tender Brake (Pteris tremula), a graceful fern that can be found in a variety of covert contexts across Richmond, East Melbourne and Abbotsford, and surely in most of the metropolitan’s other inner suburbs.
A native fern indigenous to the Yarra and to its range-fed tributaries, Tender Brake has made the jump from the valley to urban and suburban walls wherever moisture levels and substrate chemistry cooperate. A generalist capable of growing both in soil and in petrophytic positions, and relatively tolerant of transplantation, this fern was a frequent early collection into the ferneries of both botanic gardens and private estates like Rippon Lea. It was also a popular recommendation in period newspapers, which trumpeted ‘its fine habit, light green fronds, and general hardiness’ (Weekly Times 13/02/1875).
With only a handful of herbarium records collected from metropolitan structures, this is another under-reported urban fern, and one that is especially well-established. We have previously featured this species as one of four that have colonised Northcote’s Rucker’s Hill Embankment. Elsewhere, Tender Brake has naturalised in South Africa, the Atlantic islands and California’s San Gabriel and Santa Lucia mountains, after being distributed globally as an ornamental.