Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern)
|Also known as:
|Osmundaceae (Royal Fern)
|part shade, sun; swamps, wet woods, stream banks, shallow water
|3 to 6 feet
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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Leaves and stems:
Leaves are twice compound, up to 3 feet long, broadly egg-shaped in outline, the “branches” (pinnule) opposite. The leaflets are about 2 inches long and ¾ inch wide, minutely toothed around the edges, with forked veins, blunt tips, somewhat heart-shaped to nearly straight across the base, and little or no stalk. The leaflets are typically alternate with 7 to 10 on each side of a stem. Stems are brown, slender, slightly grooved on the upper side, initially covered with light brown hairs, becoming smooth with maturity.
Bead-like capsules containing the spores are attached to a stalk growing at the tip of a leaf (Royal Fern gets its name from this “crown” of capsules at the tip of leaf). The capsules are initially bright green but turn rusty colored then dark brown after releasing the spores.
This species doesn't look much like a fern. It can take on a shrub-like appearance and the leaves look similar to a locust tree or a vetch species. Royal fern can be identified by the double compound leaves and clustered spore capsules at the tip of the leaf. There are 4 or 5 varieties spread across nearly every continent, but only var. spectabilis is recognized in North America, and Minnesota.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?