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Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)
Cressler, Alan

Osmunda cinnamomea

Osmunda cinnamomea L.

Cinnamon Fern

Osmundaceae (Royal Fern Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), PR (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

The fronds of cinnamon fern occur in groups, rising from a shallow, black rootstock. Fertile fronds appear first as silvery, furry fiddleheads, ultimately becoming stiff, erect, and covered with specialized pinnae, which turn their upper portions into a thick spike of fruit dots - turning from green to chocolate brown. Sterile fronds bend outwards forming a vase-shaped circle enclosing the "cinnamon" fronds. The fern can reach a height of 6 ft.

The contrasting stature of fertile and infertile fronds can make for dramatic accents in a landscape.


From the Image Gallery

36 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb , Fern
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Size Notes: Up to about 6 feet tall.
Leaf: Sterile leaves up to 5 feet long, 1 1/2 pinnate, each segment of the leaf more or less rounded at the tip; leaf stalk up to 1 foot long, covered with dense cinnamon-colored hairs.
Flower: Spore-bearing sori densely crowded on the back of much reduced fertile leaves; sporangia cinnamon-colored.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Non-flowering, sporulating plant. Sporulates May - Jun.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Lab. to MN, s. to FL, TX, Mex, and Central America. Zones 4 to 11.
Native Habitat: Boggy areas; shaded ledges; bluffs

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium , High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Muddy, acid soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Acid-based, Calcareous
Conditions Comments: Can grow in full sun if it is in standing water all the time. Otherwise, must have at least partial shade and at least moist soil.


Use Ornamental: Bog or pond area, Water garden
Use Wildlife: Fuzz which covers the young fiddleheads is a favorite nesting material for birds.
Use Other: Bristly root crown, called osmunda fiber, used as a potting medium for orchids.
Attracts: Birds


Propagation Material: Root Division
Description: Propagate by fresh, green spores or rhizome division.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Groundcover to reduce erosion for shady area in New York
May 05, 2009
We live on a lake with gravelly and clay soils, lots of wind and little sun. I am looking for a native ground cover that will help reduce erosion over some of the steep slopes facing south (under shad...
view the full question and answer

Native plants to stop pond bank erosion
June 04, 2008
I recently purchased a home with a small pond in which a nearby stream daylights. The former owner placed large field stone around the pond and the small stream; however, the area around the pond and...
view the full question and answer

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
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 1231 - Guide To the Ferns of Grey and Bruce Counties, Ontario (1999) Owen Sound Field Naturalists
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2015-07-15
Research By: TWC Staff

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