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August Flora Spotlight:
Cinnamon Fern

 
Cinnamon Fern
Osmunda cinnamomea


Cinnamon fern is an upright, vase-like perennial with lush green fronds. Showy, spore-bearing fertile fronds appear in early spring and turn bright cinnamon brown, thus the common name. Most ferns carry their reproductive spores on the undersides of the fronds; cinnamon fern (and other species of Osmunda) have separate and distinctive fertile fronds in addition to the typical sterile fronds. The large sterile fronds grow 3-5 ft tall. The fronds can be used in flower arrangements. 

Cinnamon fern is a common fern that grows naturally in moist habitats such as wet woods, the shores of lakes, rivers, and in bogs and swamps. Grow in part to full shade in humus rich acidic soil. They will tolerate full sun if kept moist. 

They may be slow to get established but plants are very long-lived. Clumps can be divided to make new plants. Fresh spores can be sown on potting medium under lights. They will develop rapidly. 

These ferns provide seasonal cover and hiding places for ground frequenting birds such as wood thrushes, Kentucky and hooded warblers, robins and Carolina wrens. Hummingbirds use the fine, hairy fibers from the stems to make soft, silky lining for their nest. 
Native Americans used a decoction of cinnamon fern to treat rheumatism, headache, chills, colds and snakebite. The fiddleheads can be eaten raw or cooked and are said to taste like a blend of broccoli, asparagus and artichoke. 
Cinnamon fern is the perfect solution to a wet shady area of any garden. Great pale green color in spring and in the fall before they completely disappears for the winter the fronds turn a golden bronzy color. Ferns are one of my favorite native plants and the cinnamon fern is a real winner in my shady woods.

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