Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia - (L.)Fernald.
Common Name Sweet Fern
Family Myricaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
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.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

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Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia Sweet Fern

Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia Sweet Fern
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
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.

C. asplenifolia. Myrica asplenifolia.

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;
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

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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
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]. This form is probably no more than a phenotypic variant of the species that is found growing in harsh conditions[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].
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].
Other Names
Found In
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 :
Related Plants


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Subject : Comptonia peregrina asplenifolia  

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