Cinnamon Fern – Osmunda cinnamomea

Cinnamon Fern at Longwood Gardens
Cinnamon Fern at Longwood Gardens

This interesting fern got its name from its fiddleheads. At first they are a cinnamon color and covered with a dense, wooly pubescence (being covered with short, soft hairs); as the fronds mature, they unfurl and become a soft green in color. Just before dying off for the dormant season these same fronds turn a golden color. Due to the color changes through the seasons this fern always makes an interesting statement in the shade garden through the entire growing season.

The Cherokee Indians used this fern for food and medicine; eating the young fronds as a spring vegetable for its tonic properties. Externally the root was used in decoction form for rheumatism, and a compound decoction for treating chills. The root was also used as a snakebite remedy.

The Iroquois and Menominee people also used this plant for a gynecological aid and as a treatment for syphilis. It was also used for a medicine for cows having a difficult birthing.

The Cinnamon Fern likes moist areas at the edges of ponds and streams, or a moist border area. It works well as an accent plant adding a lush, almost tropical look to the garden.

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