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Comptonia peregrina - (L.)J.M.Coult.
                 
Common Name Sweet Fern
Family Myricaceae
USDA hardiness 3-6
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Dry, sterile, sandy to rocky soils in pinelands or pine barrens, clearings, pastures or edges of woodlots from sea level to 1800 metres[43, 270].
Range Eastern N. America - Nova Scotia south to Georgia and east to Minnesota and Tennessee..
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary
Bloom Color: Green, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Early spring, Late spring, Mid summer, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.

Comptonia peregrina Sweet Fern


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sten
Comptonia peregrina Sweet Fern
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sten
   
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Comptonia peregrina is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Mar to April. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant)It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Synonyms

Habitats
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

The young fruits are eaten as a pleasant nibble[55, 62, 183]. The aromatic leaves, fresh or dried, are used to make a palatable tea[55, 62, 102, 183]. The leaves are also used as a seasoning[183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Astringent;  Blood purifier;  Expectorant;  Febrifuge;  Odontalgic;  Parasiticide;  Poultice;  Tonic.


Sweet fern was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially as a poultice to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is still used for most of the same purposes in modern herbalism. The leaves are astringent, blood purifier, expectorant and tonic[21, 62, 222, 257]. A tea made from the leaves and flowering tops is used as a remedy for diarrhoea, headache, fevers, catarrh, vomiting of blood, rheumatism etc[213, 222, 257]. The infusion has also been used to treat ringworm[257]. The leaves have also been used as a poultice for toothaches, sprains etc[238, 257]. A cold water infusion of the leaves has been used externally to counter the effect of poison ivy[213, 222, 257] and to bathe stings, minor haemorrhages etc[238]. The leaves are harvested in early summer and dried for later use[238].
Other Uses
Incense;  Lining;  Parasiticide;  Repellent.

The leaves are used as a lining in baskets etc in order to preserve the fruit[55]. The crushed leaves repel insects[102]. They can be thrown onto a camp fire to keep mosquitoes away[257]. The dried leaves have been burnt as an incense[257].
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Arbor, Border, Container, Erosion control, Foundation, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen. Requires a peaty or light loam lime-free soil[11, 182, 200]. Requires an acid well-drained soil of low to medium fertility in partial shade but tolerates full sun if the soil does not dry out in the summer[200]. Tolerates dry sandy soils when grown in the shade[200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is hardy to at least -25°c[184, 200]. The crushed leaves are very aromatic[182], their scent is most noticeable in the early morning and the evening[238]. The scent increases when the leaves are dried[245]. This species is somewhat intolerant of root disturbance and should be planted out into its permanent position whilst small[238]. Suckering freely[184], this plant is well suited to clothing banks on soils of low fertility[200]. It has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. Special Features:North American native, Fragrant foliage, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Propagation
Seed - it has a very tough seed coat and also contains germination inhibitors and so is very difficult to germinate[113]. It is probably best to harvest the seed 'green' (after the seed has fully developed but before it dries on the plant) and sow immediately in a cold frame. If the seed has been stored then soaking in hot water for 24 hours will leach out some of the inhibitors and also help to soften the seed coat. Scarification will also help as will a period of cold stratification. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer[K]. Root cuttings, 4cm long December in a frame[78, 113]. Plant the root horizontally. High percentage[78]. Suckers removed in the dormant season and potted up or planted into their permanent positions[200]. Plants can be difficult to move successfully[238]. Layering in spring[238].

Books by Plants For A Future

Other Names
Sugar fern,
Found In
Australia, Canada, North America, USA,
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Expert comment
 
Author
(L.)J.M.Coult.
Botanical References
43200270
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
 
Elizabeth H.
Alison Saville of Gardenaires Thu May 18 2006
You say that the young fruits are edible, but what form do they take ? The illustration in Phillips/Rix/Collins shows catkins. Do the fruits of Comptonia form nuts, soft fruit or what ?
Elizabeth H.
Mary Lou Buccicone Wed Jun 6 2007
My dad called this bush "Northern Sage". I never knew any other use than one not mentioned in any article I have seen here thus far. From about the middle of June until the leaves begin to fall I strip off some leaves from one of the branches, mull them by rubbing my hands together and then, holding both hands close to my nose, inhale the aroma very like eucalyptol. This clears my sinuses and forestalls the asthma attack which most often occurs in hot humid air.
Elizabeth H.
Tracy Plunkett Sat Aug 1 2009
Where can I purchase this plant in Minnesota?
Robin I.
Dec 19 2011 12:00AM
Using fresh leaves in the tea avoids the strong aftertaste you get from the dried leaves.
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Subject : Comptonia peregrina  

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