Soil: Acidic, Loamy, Sandy, Well-drained
Moisture: Consistently Moist
Light: Part Sun to Shade
Plant Height: to 4 feet
Plant Width: 1 to 1.5 feet
Pests: None serious
Landscape Value: Great on stream and pond edges, in wet woodlands, and in water gardens.
Clump-forming, deciduous fern with both sterile and fertile fronds (leaves). Sterile fronds emerge first as red fiddleheads that become light green with deeply cut lobes. Fertile fronds are brownish-black with tightly packed clusters of bead-like spore cases. The fronds persist through winter releasing spores the following spring. Spreads by creeping rhizomes (shallow underground stems) and spores to form colonies. Synthesizes a chemical defense against insects, producing enzymes and hormones that disrupt insect development. Provides shelter for salamanders and frogs. Does not tolerate standing water or drought. Sterile fronds are sensitive to freezing temperatures, turning black with the first frost, hence its common name. Cut fronds good for flower arrangements.
1 5-pint pot
North Carolina State Extension (photos by Fredlyish, CT Johansson, H. Zell)