Plant types and subtypes: Trees & Shrubs, Shrubs, Deciduous
Light Requirements: sun, part-sun, part-shade
Water Use: low
Soil Moisture: dry, moist
Soil Description: acid, neutral, average, poor, loam, clay, sand, gravel/rock
Bloom Time: April, May
Bloom Color: white, yellow, green
Leaf Color: green
Hardiness Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Additional Tags: attracts birds, attracts butterflies, colonizing, drought tolerant, edible, fragrant plant, rock garden plant
Pricing & Availability
Comptonia peregrinaAlso known as:
Myrica aspleniifolia, Myrica peregrina
Sweet fern is a small, clump forming, deciduous shrub growing to about 4' in height. The deeply divided leaves are reminiscent of fern fronds, which explains the species' common name. The yellowish flowers are inconspicuous, resembling catkins which appear before the foliage develops. By late summer, these produce nutlet-like fruit that mature in early fall. The foliage is fragrant, releasing its aroma when crushed.
Comptonia peregrina is tolerant of dry conditions and poor soil. The root system produces underground runners (hence the specific epithet peregrina) making it a good plant for stabilizing exposed areas susceptible to erosion. It can be grown along alleys, roadsides, steep embankments and rock gardens. Under ideal conditions, mature plants will slowly spread to form colonies. Sweet fern does not transplant well. Many native populations have become threatened by the collection of wild specimens. Blooms in mid spring: April and May. Zones 3-7
Best propagated by root, or soft-wood cuttings. It may be propagated by seed, but the process is slow and difficult.
Sweet fern has the ability to fix its own nitrogen. Though drought tolerant with the ability even to grow on sand dunes in coastal areas, it does poorly under high heat if combined with high humidity, and can be difficult to grow in areas warmer than zone 7. The leaves have been used in herbal teas and remedies, crushed or burned as a mosquito repellent.
Native Range & Classification
Recorded County Distribution: USDA data
CT, DC, DE, GA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV
USDA Endangered Status:
- Endangered: IL, KY, TN
- Threatened: OH
|Species||Comptonia peregrina||sweet fern|