Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Comptonia peregrina ( Sweet Fern )

A small suckering deciduous shrub that eventually becomes a many stem thicket and is native to eastern North America ( from southeast Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario to Wawa, Ontario to the southern tip of James Bay to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; south to central Minnesota to northern Illinois to central Ohio to central North Carolina to southeast Virginia ). Rapid growing up to 3 feet per year; Sweet Fern may eventually reach 4 feet or rarely up to 6 feet in height with a width of over 10 feet. It is frequently found on sandy shorelines in the wild.
The very fragrant leaves, up to 6 x 1.2 inches in size, are lobed almost to the midrib. The ferny foliage is glossy deep green above, bright gray-green beneath; turning to tan during the fall and sometimes persisting dried into the winter. The young leaves in spring are covered by a reddish-brown down.
The leaves can be prepared into a tasty tea. Just put 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves into a covered cup of boiling water for 10 minutes.
The leaves can also be used in the same way as Bay Laurel to flavor food in cooking.
The red-brown flowers are borne in separate male and female catkins up to 2 inches in length and resembling Corylus ( Hazel ).
Hardy zones 2 to 6 ( possibly 7 & 8 for seed source originating in central North Carolina ) in full sun to partial shade on slightly acid, moist, rich, well drained soil. Besides salt and wind, it is also tolerant of poor, dry, sandy soils as the roots fix nitrogen. Old wood should be occasionally removed in early spring to make room for younger more vigorous growth. With excellent clean, lush, disease and pest free foliage in the summer this makes for an excellent tall groundcover. .The Sweet Fern can be propagated from seed, replanting rooted suckers and by layering. The seed should be soaked in boiling water then left to cool for 24 hours before sowing at 0.1 inches deep.


* photo taken on August 2004 @ Tyler Arboretum, Philly. PA

* photo taken on 4th of July 2010 in Washington, D.C.

* photo taken on August 3 2010 @ University of Guelph Arboretum, Ontario

* photos taken on Aug 3 2014 @ National Zoo, Washington, DC

* photos taken on June 24 2016 in Ellicott City, MD

* photos taken on Apr 28 2017 in Ellicott City, MD

* excellent video found on youtube

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