Osmunda regalis  

Royal fern    Perennial of the Month-- June 2015 Perry caricature

 (pronunciation at link) (oz-MUN-dah  ree-GAL-iss) 

Common name: Royal fern

Family:  Osmunda, Osmundaceae

Height x width: 2-3ft high and wide (can be taller with good moisture)

Growth rate, habit: moderate

Foliage: deciduous (dies back in winter), large twice-divided sterile fronds with well-separated oblong leaflets (pinnae) resembling the pea family, yellow to brown in fall; 6-9 pairs of pinnate leaflets or 2-3 pairs of bipinnate leaflets; also partially fertile leaves

Flowers:  tassel-like golden fertile clusters on ends of fertile fronds

Hardiness:  USDA zones 3-9 (zone map)

Soil: average to wet, prefers organic and acidic, doesn't tolerate wet conditions depositing sediment on roots

Light:   part shade (4-6 hours direct sun daily) to full shade

Pests and problems:  none serious

Landscape habit, uses:  naturalizing, rain gardens, water or bog gardens, shady borders, woodland gardens; combines well with variegated Siberian bugloss, ajuga, astilbe, hosta, woodland phlox, pulmonaria, rodgersia, lower ferns

Other interest: tolerates rabbit and deer, heavy shade, wet soils; native to eastern No. America and found on every continent except Australia; genus name has an ancient Saxon origin, being one of the titles of the pagan god Thor; members of this family have been found in fossils dating back almost a quarter million years; very slowly spreads by an underground stem; plants may last 100 years or more; No. American version var. spectabilis is smaller with smaller fronds than the European var. regalis

Other culture: cut back foliage in late winter (even dead it can provide cover for wildlife) 

Propagation:  division in dormant season

Sources:  many online and local specialty nurseries


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