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Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)

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Hardy fern grow sheet
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Osmunda cinnamomea

Cinnamon fern

(syn. Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)

Brilliant green lacy fronds gracefully arch outward in stately vase-shaped clumps. In early summer narrow fronds emerge as vertical spikes of cinnamon red brown in the center. Especially striking when planted in groups. Prefers a moist shady site, but tolerates more sun in cooler zones.

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2-5 Feet


2-3 Feet


12-18 Inches

Bloom Color

USDA Hardiness Zone 2-10

Cinnamon fern Interesting Notes

The cinnamon fern features showy, cinnamon-colored fertile fronds in early spring followed by large arching sterile fronds the remainder of the growing season, making this an attractive addition to the moist shade garden. The erect rhizomes of cinnamon fern grow to 3½’ tall with the fertile fronds fading by early summer. It thrives in moist, humus-rich, acidic to average soil in partial to full shade and its fibrous root system is excellent at holding the soil in place especially in streamside settings. Osmundastrum cinnamomeum makes an excellent companion to Packera aurea, Helonias bullataMicranthes pensylvanicaCarex grayi, and Lobelia siphilitica. - Mt. Cuba Center

The common name of this plant is in reference to the cinnamon colored fibers found near the frond bases. Osmunda fiber used in the potting of orchids comes from the roots of these ferns. ~ Kemper Center for Home Gardening

Common name from color of hairs on rachis, and fall coloration of fronds; genus name after the Nordic God Thor, also called Osmunder; native to eastern U.S. with fiddleheads often collected in spring in the North and boiled like asparagus for eating; more vigorous in the North, not tolerating summer heat of the South; related to the other popular Royal Fern, O. regalis and Interrupted Fern, O. claytonia. UVM

Cinnamon fern grows like a big shuttlecock from the ascending tips of thick, creeping semiwoody rhizomes. Most ferns carry their reproductive spores on the undersides of the fronds; cinnamon fern (and other species of Osmunda) have separate and distinctive fertile fronds in addition to the typical sterile fronds. The large sterile fronds grow 3-5' tall. They are pinnately compound with each of the 30-50 pinnae divided again. At first the fiddleheads are cinnamon brown and covered with a dense wooly pubescence, but the fronds turn pale green as they unfold and mature. Later in the year, they turn golden brown before dying back in winter. The fertile fronds, which lack leafy pinnae, emerge in spring from the center of the plant, standing a little above the vaselike cluster of sterile fronds. They are green at first but soon turn rich cinnamon brown. Fertile fronds are covered with abundant masses of brownish sporangia. The fertile fronds die back after shedding their spores in late summer. The roots of cinnamon fern are black, wiry and fibrous, eventually forming a tough, thick mat. Cinnamon fern is readily identified by the distinctive cinnamon colored non-leaflike fertile fronds, or if fertile fronds are absent, by the presence of a conspicuous tuft of orange hairs on the underside of each pinna at its base.

American Indians used a decoction of cinnamon fern to treat rheumatism,headache, chills, colds and snakebite. Frond tips were eaten both raw and cooked. The fiddleheads are edible, and said to taste like a blend of broccoli, asparagus and artichoke.

The Florida Department of Agriculture lists cinnamon fern as a "Commercially Exploited Species," which means that it cannot be removed from the wild for commercial purposes without a permit. Cinnamon fern is, however, legally available from many of the native plant nurseries.

The Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), is a North American native that is especially adapted to wet areas where it will produce an exuberant upright bouquet of 2 to 5 feet fronds. Set in the middle of its base, the plant erects sentinels of fertile cinnamon-colored frond-spikes. These hold spores lasting well into the season and remain long after the spores are shed. These ferns make a showy contribution to landscape design in swampy areas but will adapt with a lower mature height to average soil conditions. It will tolerate some sun and lime soils but won’t reach maximum size under those conditions. They are in high demand and can be grown in an amazing climatic range from Zones 2 -10. - Casa Flora

Osmunda cinnamomea Growing and Maintenance Tips

O. cinnamomea is native to stream banks, swamps and on bog margins from Newfoundland to Minnesota south to New Mexico and Florida. Prefers moist, rich, acidic soils in full to patial shade. Needs consistent moisture and can take more sun with regular watering. Propagate by division every few years in the spring.

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Shade
Full Shade
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance
Cut Flower
Cut Flower

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Green Infrastructure
Bioretention/Rain Garden
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Tissue culture