September: Cinnamon Fern

Ferns are often overlooked as shade plants in the landscape because they do tend to need a fair amount of water. But plenty of us with shady yards have soggy sections that struggle, and ferns like cinnamon fern are a perfect fit.

Cinnamon fern is native to the eastern US where it grows in forests along creeks and in boggy areas. It earns its name from the cinnamon-colored fertile fronds that emerge in early spring before the green sterile fronds. Shortly afterward, bright green fiddleheads emerge and unfurl into upright leafy fronds. The fiddleheads are edible raw or cooked, and while I've never personally tried them, they are reported to be absolutely delicious. Native plants sometimes have a reputation as being difficult to find in nurseries, but cinnamon fern is so popular with shade gardeners that most larger garden centers and nurseries will carry it or will have access to ordering it. It's a clump-forming fern rather than one that spreads by runners, but it can be divided in the fall or early spring to spread.

Common Name: Cinnamon Fern

Scientific Name: Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (formerly Osmunda cinnamomea)

Notable Varieties: sold as straight species

Light: full to partial shade

Size: 2-3' tall and wide (mature plants can reach 5' tall in very moist conditions)

Soil: needs consistent moisture 

Blooms: tall cinnamon-colored spike-like fronds in early spring before green fronds emerge

Other Notes: rabbit tolerant, native to Indiana, fiddleheads are edible, yellowish fall color

See other plants of the month.

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