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Fragrant Fern?

Posted by stoloniferous 6 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 11, 08 at 18:22

Greetings! Last summer I took a tour of Garden in the Woods, in Massachusetts, in which they pointed out a plant by the common name of "fragrant fern". Its a deciduous shrub with finger-length, olive-green leaves that are shaped a bit like fern fronds. I dont think the plant is actually a fern. Since then, Ive spotted it about in sunny, dry fields it grows in stands that are about knee-high, and in the autumn the leaves turned a plain brown before falling off. The leaf has a lovely smell when crushed.

I would like to plant some of this in my yard, but I cant find any information on it because I cant seem to find the scientific name anywhere. Searches of the name "fragrant fern" have only yielded other plants.

Is anyone here familiar with this plant? Does it perhaps have another common name that is more well-known?

Thanks. . .

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Fragrant Fern?

Comptonia peregrina, I believe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Comptonia peregrina

RE: Fragrant Fern?

I'd agree with Carol23. All the seet fern I've seen has been in very sandy, dry soil and has a wonderful smell. Not sure if it is ever sold at nurseries. It is used medicinally so may be available through those sources. It may well move to a more fertile site just fine. Many times the plants growing in poor soil are there because they are the only plants that can survive there and no other plants crowd them out. In a garden where you keep the competing plants (weeds?) away they may do even better. The sweet fern leaves make a great wash for skin problems.

RE: Fragrant Fern?

Thank you Carol and Naturegirl! That's it exactly.

My front yard is dry and has only about six inches of good soil over pure sand. I'm thinking it might be pretty ideal for a bed of this stuff. I would have to figure out what else to plant with it so that the bed wouldn't be a bunch of bare twigs in the winter, but I like a challenge! I may try starting this from cuttings, since even Garden in the Woods doesn't seem to carry it.

Thanks again!

RE: Fragrant Fern?

The ideal use for Sweetfern is a vacation house or cabin or on the beach. It is very rustic, wanders and forms colonies. Roots are just under the surface, it is impossible to dig. In nature it grows in poor soil and fixes nitrogen. When planted in richer soil it is a constant weeding job. I have a patch of it and can't keep bedstraw out of it. In Winter the leaves curl up, turn brown and stay on. It is propagated by root cuttings which can be done RIGHT NOW.
Fairweather Gardens mailorder in NJ has it, Weston Nursery in Hopkinton MA carries it. It can be found in smaller, local native plant sales. To me foliage smells like pine.
I think it should be used for road medians and parking islands.

RE: Fragrant Fern?

Thank you Sam! I may have to experiment with a few root-cuttings this weekend, in addition to checking out what those nurseries carry. But I'll be sure not to turn them loose in my yard until I've had some time to observe their growth in pots. :) Though I do have to say I have a soft spot for native plants that can hold their own in a yard. . . that, and anything "stoloniferous"!

RE: Fragrant Fern?

hi Stoloniferous,
I know that the Garden in the Woods nursery has carried Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), so I would check with them later in the year. I also saw it in the Tripple Brook Farm mail order catalog that I recently received, although strangely I don't see it on their web site...

Here is a link that might be useful: Tripple Brook mail order

RE: Fragrant Fern?

Oooh, thanks Ellen! I should have thought to look through the Garden in the Woods list. Silly me. :)

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