Comptonia peregrina (L.) J. M. Coult. - Sweet Fern


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Comptonia peregrina - (image 1 of 3)



Family: Myricaceae


Sand flats and barrens, usually where fires occur occasionally.


Most frequent associate is bracken fern.


Nova Scotia to Manitoba, south to North Carolina.


Medium deciduous shrub, to 4' high. Leaves alternate, simple, linear-oblong, deeply pinnatifid with rounded lobes, to 4.5" long and a just under 1" wide, deep glossy green above; petiole to 1/4" long. Young stems green with resinous dots; older stems red-brown, smooth, somewhat hairy. Flowers monoecious; male flowers usually 4, stamen born in cylindrical catkins; female: ovary surrounded with 8 persistent bracts at the base, born in globose-ovoid catkins, yellow-green. Fruit an olive-brown nutlet, 1/5" long, in distinct burr-like cluster of bracts. Suckers to form vegetative colonies.      


Flowers in April

Wetland indicator: Upland

The leaves, dried and steeped in water, make a pleasantly spicy tea. Prefers an acid soil. Associates with a nodule forming Actinomycete fungus that fixes nitrogen.


Dirr, Michael A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses.
5th ed. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing L.L.C.


Swink, F. and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region.
Indiana Academy of Science. The Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.




 Michael Hough 2004