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Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern) | NPIN
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Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern)
Vick, Albert F. W.

Comptonia peregrina

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

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 Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower:
Fruit: Green, Brown
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug

Distribution

USA: 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 Conditions

Water 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.

Benefit

Use 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
(Strymon melinus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Propagation

Description: 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

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 Suppliers Directory

According 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 Directory

According 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

Bibliography

Bibref 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 resources

USDA: Find Comptonia peregrina in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Comptonia peregrina in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Comptonia peregrina

Metadata

Record Modified: 2007-07-01
Research By: TWC Staff

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