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Vick, Albert F. W.
Comptonia peregrina (L.) J.M. Coult.
Sweet fern, Sweet-fern
Synonym(s): Comptonia peregrina var. aspleniifolia, Myrica aspleniifolia, Myrica aspleniifolia var. tomentosa, Myrica peregrina
USDA Symbol: COPE80
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Shrub Leaf:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Green, Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug
, WV 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)
Root cuttings are the principal means of propagation. Place horizontally, 1/2 in. deep, in sand: sphagnum. Stem
cuttings must be taken from juvenile growth. Collect juvenile stems 3 in. or less in length. Germination of seed is difficult. Seed Collection:
Not Available Seed Treatment:
Not Available Commercially Avail:
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Attracting butterflies in Tennessee
July 03, 2009
What flowers and plants do the caterpillars in Tennessee eat? And do you know what butterflies live in Tipton Co. Tennessee?
view the full question and answer
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Delaware Nature Society
- Hockessin, DEMt. Cuba Center
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2007-07-01
Research By: TWC Staff