Sweet fern, Sweet-fern
Myricaceae (Bayberry Family)
Vick, Albert F. W.
A small, aromatic mound-shaped shrub,
2-4 ft. tall, occuring in dense colonies. Multiple stems with loose, spreading branches. Long, narrow, olive-green leaves, the edges of which have rolled back edges and rounded, fern-like division. Flowers are brown catkins that appear before the leaves unfold. A small nut
is enclosed in a bur-like husk.
Sweet-fern is a member of the wax-myrtle or bayberry family (family Myricaceae), which occurs nearly worldwide, with about 40 species of small trees and shrubs; 5 native tree
species and 3 shrub
species in North America. The leaves are very aromatic when crushed.
Image Gallery: 5 photo(s) available
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Shrub Leaf:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Green, Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug
, DC Canada: NB
, PE Native Distribution:
N.S. to Sask., s. to GA, KY,
& n. MN Native Habitat:
Dry, open woods; roadsides; sandy barrens
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Sandy, acid soils.
Conditions Comments: No serious disease or insect problems.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Throughout its range, the grey hairstreak feeds on many families of plants. For unknown reasons the grey hairstreak is restricted to feeding on sweetfern in the northern limits of its range. (Canadian BIF)
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Grey Hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus)
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for: