Synonym Onoclea orientalis

Epithet means "from the East."

Deciduous, 11/2 to 4 ft. (45 to 120 cm). Zones 5 to 8.

description: The rhizome creeps producing new plants from erect crowns. Straw-colored, stout stipes with brown scales are up to one-half of the frond length. Sterile once-pinnate blades are ovate with 8 to 20 pairs of lobed pinnae. Unlike Matteuccia struthiopteris, which is dressed to the ground in pinnae, the downward-pointing lower pinna pair on this species is broad and at mid frond. Sori are carried in small brown balls on upright fertile stalks.

range and habitat: This species is native to Russia, Korea, Japan, China, and the Himalayas and found in acid woodlands.

culture and comments: The oriental ostrich fern is rarely in commerce, but when available offers promise as a smaller and perhaps more manageable version of Matteuccia struthiopteris. it is perhaps best tested as a large container plant with shade and loamy soil before being released into the garden.

Matteuccia struthiopteris Ostrich fern

Synonyms Pteretis nodulosa, Struthiopteris pensylvanica Epithet is from struthio, ostrich, and pteris, fern. Deciduous, 3 to 6 ft. (90 to 180 cm) or more. Zones 2 to (cool summer) 8.

description: Runners from the rhizomes spread ambitiously. Deeply grooved, exceptionally short stipes are black with a green inner lining. The eagerly awaited pinnate-pin-natifid sterile fronds, which are among the first ferns to flush in spring, are a brilliant green show of fiddleheads. In time they reach 4, 5, or sometimes 6 ft. (120 to 180 cm) and are trimmed from base to apex with 40 to 60 pairs of pinnae. The basal pinnules on the pinna overlap the rachis. in outline the blade is broadest just above the middle, tapering with minute pinnae at both the base and the apex. Sori are in small beads on 18- to 24-in. (45- to 60-cm) upright fertile stalks.

The species is often subdivided into two varieties: var. pensylvanica from North America and var. struthiopteris from Europe and Asia. There is a history of confusion surrounding the differences between them, but various authors note that the stipe scales on the American variety are brown and make a brief appearance on spring fiddleheads. By contrast the stipe scales of the European are persistent and a dark centered brown. In addition, with sterile fronds at 5 ft. (1.5 m) or more, var. pensylvanica is taller than var. struthiopteris.

range and habitat: Both varieties grow with enthusiasm in partial sun to full shade and damp to wet loamy soil. A jumbo cultivar is popular in the trade in the united States and

Matteuccia struthiopteris in autumn dress.

Brown scales make a fleeting spring appearance on Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica.

New growth on Matteuccia struthiopteris.

Brown scales make a fleeting spring appearance on Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica.

New growth on Matteuccia struthiopteris.

Young green fertile fronds on Matteuccia.
Fleecy and pliant fronds of Microlepia strigosa.

Microsorum musifolium grows on stonework with other tropicals, including a poinsettia in flower. Photo by George Schenk.

Close-up of the venation on Microsorum musifolium in the Fernery at the Morris Arboretum.

has a trunk, which is at least 4 in. (10 cm) in diameter and, in my garden, 6 in. (15 cm) in height while yet still young.

culture and comments: Readily introduced, the ostrich ferns cover woodlands and roadsides in much of the cool temperate areas of the world, but do not succeed in climates with extended hot summers. Even in cool habitats if they go without steady irrigation they tend to look tattered and stressed by midsummer rather like a starlet who blossoms in youth and then fades in middle age. Plantings can become quite invasive but if you do not want them, you can always eat them. The new crosiers are the fiddleheads of the gourmet trade. Tons of freshly plucked young fronds are distributed during their brief spring flush. (Ostrich fern is the state vegetable of Vermont and largest export crop of New Brunswick, Canada.) Canned, fresh, or frozen, with the flavor of asparagus, they are best and nutritionally safest when cooked for at least 10 minutes. Sauté or bake them in butter and garlic and serve. Or as an alternative, how about a "cream of crosier" soup for the creative gourmet.

Matteuccia x intermedia is a rare, presumed hybrid between M. orientalis and M. struthiopteris, however botanical confirmation is uncertain.

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