Ostrich ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris, also known as Fiddlehead fern, is a large, fast-growing, easily cultivated fern. Ostrich fern is grown in gardens for their beautiful fronds. It gets its name from the smaller fertile frond-carrying pinnae that form in clusters of tufts. Find facts and information on growing and caring for ostrich ferns, and what parts are edible.
Facts and Information on Ostrich Ferns
The cultivated Ostrich fern will seldom attain its native height but with favorable garden conditions, especially with plenty of mositure, it grows easily to 42, and at times to 60 inches. With this height and its dark green, lustrous leaves, it is an excellent fern for a background planting around a canopy gazebo or a garden bench.
Ostrich fern leaves rise vertically from a crown. These ferns have dense underground runners that extend in all directions. You should plant the ostrich fern in a place where it can spread out and be controlled. It is very good for naturalizing since it will spread out very quickly.
The sterile leaves appear much later than those of many other ferns. When first seen, they are like small, emerald green balls. As they unfold, the lower pinnae stretch out at right angles. The pinnae will rapidly decrease in length near the apex, making the leaf appear blunt. These leaves become shabby late in the summer and die back by early fall.
The fertile leaves appear in late June or early July and are about one-half the height of the sterile ones. The segments of the fertile pinnae tightly clasp the underlying sporangia, and it is only at maturity that the sporangia are revealed. These leaves, which change to shiny green-bronze and later to brown, remain erect all winter.
Culture of Ostrich Ferns
Ostrich fern is native in alluvial deposits, marshy zones, little islands and deltas of shallow streams and creeks. It grows in Zones 3-9. Although easy to grow almost anywhere, its appearance will reflect its care. Regularly watered plants will retain their grandeur into late summer, so be sure to give them enough water. Ostich ferns grow from Newfoundland to Alaska, south to Fairfax County, Virginia, to the mountains of eastern West Virginia, and into central Misssouri.
Fiddleheads- Edible Parts of the Ostrich Fern
Ostrich fern has immature fronds that are tightly wound, referred to as “fiddleheads” because they resemble the curl on a fiddle. This same fern is often called Fiddlehead fern. Fiddleheads are often sought after in May, by folks in the Northeast who wait each year to seek them out. They are often sauteed or cooked by boiling them just as you would cook other green vegetables.
The fiddleheads are said to be a good source of Vitamin A and C. In some places the shoots are eaten cut up in salads, or by the Japanese when they are sprouts. *Tip- The frond should not be eaten raw, as it may have a pronounced bitterness.
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