Dead frond “skirts” as tree fern defence: what is the evidence?
Many tree fern taxa have a skirt, an encircling structure of persistent dead fronds or stipes around the growing crown at the top of the trunk. Page and Brownsey (1986) hypothesised that the function of these skirts was to protect tree ferns against damage from large epiphytes, hemiepiphytes, and climbing plants. Tree fern trunks provide both suitable establishment surfaces for a range of woody epiphytes and hemiepiphytes in New Zealand, as well as attachment surfaces for climbing rātā (Metrosideros spp.).