Native Plant of the Week: Sweet Fern

Updated: Aug 16

Family: Myriaceae


Name: Comptonia peregrina - Sweet Fern

Bloom Time: April - May


Flower: male: brown catkins, female: greenish yellow flowers


Soil Condition: dry-moist-wet, acidic


Light: Sun to Partial Shade


Height: 2-4' tall x 4-8' wide


Native Range: Eastern North America including Long Island


Zone: 2 - 7


Comptonia peregrina is not a fern at all! It's a fantastic small shrub found in the Pine Barrens of Long Island. It's great for difficult spots, but it does need a lot of space. Once established, it suckers quickly to form a colony. Its fern-like foliage is a great texture in the garden and gives it a tropical appearance. The aromatic foliage may be used in teas. The small nuts, enclosed in a bur-like husk, make a simple snack for humans and critters.


Maintenance: Sweet Fern does not transplant easily, so pick its final location carefully.


Benefits: Host plant to the Gray Hairstreak, Io Moth and several Sphinx Moths, birds eat the 'nutlets', erosion control due to suckering habit, fixes its own nitrogen, deer and rabbit resistant, road salt tolerant


Companion Plants:

Pinus strobus - Eastern White Pine, Cornus alterniflora - Pagoda Dogwood, Monarda fistulosa - Wild Bergamot, Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed, Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush Blueberry


pics: KMS Native Plants LLC

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References:

1. https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=cope80

2. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/comptonia-peregrina/


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