Mostly terrestrial ferns, usually with a single tall, woody stem, up to 20 m. Rarely, the trunk may be branched or creeping. Many species also develop a fibrous mass of roots at the base of the trunk. The family Cyatheaceae appears in the fossil record in the late Jurassic and are therefore very ancient plants, though the modern genera (like Cyathea) likely appeared in the Cenozoic.
The genus has a pantropical distribution, with over 470 species. They grow in habitats ranging from tropical rain forests to temperate woodlands.
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