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Plant Profile: Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)

1aRoyal fern is a deciduous perennial found on all continents except Australia. Its family, Osmundaceae, date back 230,000,000 years to the Permian days before man and other mammals but when reptiles, including dinosaurs, first inhabited the earth. Today, royal ferns grow in clumps in wet areas such as bogs, swamps, and stream edges. Their common name probably derives from the fact that they are the largest of the European ferns with fronds that can measure up to six feet long. The green fronds are bipinnate and resemble the leaves of members of the pea-family such as locust. Fertile fronds have brown spore-bearing leaflets (pinnae) at their tips, giving rise to another common name, flowering fern. The plants have large rhizomes bearing masses of fibrous roots that can be used as a potting medium for orchids. Royal ferns give a tropical look to any site, naturalize well, and are an excellent choice for water gardens and the wettest part of a rain garden.

Type: Deciduous perennial

Bloom: Not applicable; reproduces by spores

Size: 3-6′ H x 2-3′ W

Light: Part to full shade

Soil: Moist to wet, acidic

Care: Cut back old fronds in early spring

Hardiness: Zones 3-9

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Spores (slow and difficult), divison

Companion Plants: Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor), blue vervain (Verbena hastata), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), golden ragwort (Senecio aureus) goldenrod (Solidago patula), great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphlitica).

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