Comptonia peregrina (L.) J.M. Coult.
Sweet fern, Sweet-fern
Myricaceae (Bayberry Family)
Synonym(s): Comptonia peregrina var. aspleniifolia, Myrica aspleniifolia, Myrica aspleniifolia var. tomentosa, Myrica peregrina
USDA Symbol: COPE80
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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Green, Brown
Size Class: 3-6 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: CT , DC , DE , GA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: N.S. to Sask., s. to GA, KY, n. IL & 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)Comptonia peregrina is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Gray Hairstreak |
Learn more at BAMONA
PropagationDescription: 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: yes
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July 03, 2009
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From the National Suppliers DirectoryAccording to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery - Orefield, PA
American Native Nursery - Quakertown, PA
Prairie Nursery - Westfield, WI
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Recommended Species Lists
Find native plant species by state. Each list contains commercially available species suitable for gardens and planned landscapes. Once you have selected a collection, you can browse the collection or search within it using the combination search.View Recommended Species page
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Comptonia peregrina in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Comptonia peregrina in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Comptonia peregrina
MetadataRecord Modified: 2007-07-01
Research By: TWC Staff