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OSMUNDA regalis

Image of Osmunda regalis

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Osmundaceae

Botanical Name

OSMUNDA regalis

Plant Common Name

Regal Fern

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Regal, that is of outstanding merits, is but one way to describe the tremendously elegant fronds of the regal fern. A deciduous large fern that grows from an upright, massive rhizome that can become trunk-like, it is native to eastern North America, much of Europe and extreme northern Africa in moist swamps and bogs. The upright rhizome can branch with age and is covered in hairs and scars wrapped in black fibrous roots, called osmunda fiber.

Ranging from modestly sized to massive, the fronds of this fern are feather-like. This species of Osmunda is unique in that each leaf, the frond, is doubly pinnate -meaning a central petiole stem branches a second time. It is on these secondary leaf stems that the many long ovaled leaflets (pinnae) with tips line up. A bright green, these sterile fronds lack any spore-producing sporangia bodies on their undersides. In summertime, however, fertile fronds emerge from the center of the plant and resemble golden brown tassels. These small leaflets (pinnae) are cloaked in millions of rusty brown colored spores. Once a killing frost occurs in autumn, the fronds turn brown, eventually collapsing.

Grow regal fern in moist, fertile, acidic soils that are rich in humus (compost). Perfect for woodland floors and glades, dappled sun and shade is ideal but full sun exposures are okay as long as soil moisture is constant if not fully saturated. Use this magnificent fern near streams and ponds for a glorious effect, or incorporated into a mixed border of other woodland (shade) perennials and plants.

The variety spectabilis refers to the slightly different looking plants native to North America. This variety has slightly narrower leaflets (pinnae), less hairs, and the fronds do not approach as large a size as those of the European variety regalis.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    2 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Fern

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    2'-6' / 0.6m - 1.8m

  • Width

    5'-10' / 1.5m - 3.0m

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, Canada, Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe, United Kingdom, Northern Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water, Ample Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    None

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bog Garden, Container, Feature Plant, Groundcover, Mixed Border, Water Gardens

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No