Sweet Fern Comptonia peregrina (Linnaeus) Coulter    Synonyms: Sweet-fern, Sweetfern.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Myricales   >   Family Myricaceae   >   Genus Comptonia   

Status:

Sweet Fern is native to eastern North America. In Maryland, it is largely a plant of the mountains. It generally grows on acidic, nutrient-poor, sandy sites, and gets a nutritional boost in such low-nitrogen soils because its roots, like those of its relatives bayberry and wax myrtle, contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Few other plants that are not legumes are known to have this ability (the alders do). (J. Hill, MNPS)

Description:

With its long, narrow, wavy-margined leaves, Sweet Fern looks more like a fern than a flowering plant. But it produces flowers, and they are in catkins. The male catkins are cone-like structures, often in the axils of leaves. The female catkins are small, round structures, which are persistent so that the inflorescence becomes bur-like at maturity (Weakley, et al., 2012).

Relationships:

Host plant for various species of moth including Pawpaw Sphinx Moth, Wavy-lined Emerald Moth, Io Moth, and Fruit-tree Leafroller Moth (Database of World's Lepidopteran Host Plants).

There are 45 records in the project database.

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Sweet Fern in Frederick Co., Maryland (7/29/2018). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Worcester Co., Maryland (5/11/2013). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern growing in Frederick Co., Maryland (5/20/2017). Photo by Mark Etheridge. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Frederick Co., Maryland (9/29/2013). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Carroll Co., Maryland (8/7/2016). Photo by Maddie Koenig. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Worcester Co., Maryland (9/16/2014). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Worcester Co., Maryland (10/4/2020). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Frederick Co., Maryland (6/26/2017). Photo by Jim Wilkinson. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern fruiting in Frederick Co., Maryland (6/14/2015). Photo by Jane Hill. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern (male catkins and previous year's leaves) in Frederick Co., Maryland (4/12/2015). Photo by Jane Hill. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern (male catkins and previous year's leaf) in Frederick Co., Maryland (3/12/2017). Photo by Jane Hill. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Wicomico Co., Maryland (9/2/2017). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sweet Fern in Worcester Co., Maryland (10/4/2020). (c) tomfeild, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Tom Feild. (MBP list)


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