photo of Comptonia peregrina

Comptonia peregrina

Sweet Fern

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Sweet Fern is not a fern, but a multi-branched, mounded shrub with dark green, aromatic, fern-like leaves. Its inconspicuous, yellow-green...

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Description:

Sweet Fern is not a fern, but a multi-branched, mounded shrub with dark green, aromatic, fern-like leaves. Its inconspicuous, yellow-green catkins (elongated, drooping clusters of tiny flowers without petals) appear April-May, followed by small, burr-like nutlets. It is a host plant for butterfly and moth larvae (caterpillars), including Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus). This plant fixes its own nitrogen, and can tolerate sandy, nutrient-poor soil. It also tolerates wet conditions, as well as drought. Sweet Fern will form dense colonies once established. Use in naturalized areas, rain gardens, and on slopes for erosion control.

Plant Details:

Plant Type: Groundcover, Shrub

New Jersey Native: Yes

Deer Resistance: High

Attracts Pollinators and Wildlife: Butterflies

Salt Tolerance: Low to None

Hardiness Zone: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b

Physiographic Region: All Regions in NJ

Grows in Special Ecoregions: Barrier Island/Coastal, Pinelands

Soil Characteristics

Soil Type: Loam, Organic, Sandy

Soil Moisture: Well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, Slightly Acidic

Light Needs of Plant

Optimal Light: Partial Shade

Light Range: Full Sun, Partial Shade

Water Needs of Plant

Soil Moisture: Well-drained

Drought Tolerance: High

Size and Growth Rate

Height: 2 - 4 ft

Spread: 4 - 6 ft

Growth Rate: Slow