Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Native mostly in the northern half of the Mid-Atlantic Region,* Ostrich Fern is indigenous in only three places in Virginia, including along the Potomac River in Arlington and Fairfax counties. It requires a large landscape to show off to full advantage its long, finely dissected fronds, suggestive of ostrich plumes.

Print Version: Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern) Spread: 5–8 feet Bloom Color: Non-flowering Characteristics Deciduous perennial in upright & arching clumps Fiddleheads emerge in spring, unfurling to medium green, finely divided, arching, 5-foot sterile fronds, which die back in the fall Green fertile fronds emerge in summer, maturing to dark brown, erect and 11⁄2 feet tall; they can persist for a year & release spores in early spring Spreads by underground rhizomes, vigorously under favorable conditions, to form large colonies Attributes Tolerates clay soil, dense shade, erosion, rabbits No serious pests or diseases Deer rarely damage Fiddleheads are harvested in early spring and sold as gourmet food in parts of New England Provides protective cover for wildlife Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Humus-rich, acidic Light Requirements: Partial Shade, Shade Water Requirements: Moist, Wet Fertile fronds may not develop in dense shade or in immature plants; soils must not dry out Use as dramatic accent in large woodland gardens or wet areas with room to spread Hardiness: USDA Zones 3–7 *It is native to Arlington and Fairfax counties, DC, northern and western MD, and much of PA. It is adventive (non-native; an escape from cultivation into natural areas) in the DE Piedmont.  Excellent Replacement for Athyrium nipponicum - Japanese Painted Fern,

Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets