Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro

fiddlehead fern, ostrich fern

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

The sterile fronds of ostrich fern are large and arching and resemble ostrich feathers. It is often used as a landscaping plant, and its fiddleheads are eaten and collected for commercial sale.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forests, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf divisions
  • the leaf blade is compound (divided into leaflets)
  • the leaf blade is twice compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets)
Plant growth form
the leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground
Spore-bearing leaflets
the spore-bearing fronds are dramatically different from the sterile fronds
Sorus shape
there are no sori, or they are concealed in leaf segments or hardened, capsule-like structures derived from a modified leaflet
Leaf stalk scales
the leaf stalk has scales
Leaf stalk hairs
  • the leaf stalk has hairs
  • there are no hairs on the leaf stalk
Leaf blade length
30–130 cm
Leaf vein tips
the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
Show All Characteristics
  • Growth form
    Life form
    the plant is herbaceous and terrestrial
    Life stage
    the plant is visible as a typical leaf-bearing fern (sporophyte)
    Spore-bearing leaflets
    the spore-bearing fronds are dramatically different from the sterile fronds
  • Leaves
    Features of leaves
    there are no special features on the leaves
    Leaf blade length
    30–130 cm
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blades are widest above the base, then taper narrowly towards the tip (lanceolate)
    Leaf blade tip shape
    the tip of the leaf blade is a blunt point (obtuse)
    Leaf blade width
    At least 12 cm
    Leaf divisions
    • the leaf blade is compound (divided into leaflets)
    • the leaf blade is twice compound (divided into leaflets, which are further divided into leaflets)
    Leaf lifespan
    the leaves drop off in winter
    Leaf stalk color
    green
    Leaf stalk hairs
    • the leaf stalk has hairs
    • there are no hairs on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk length
    45–460 mm
    Leaf stalk relative length
    • the leaf stalk is more than three quarters as long as the blade
    • the leaf stalk is up to a quarter as long as the blade
    Leaf stalk scale location
    • the scales are present on both the lower and upper halves of the leaf stalk
    • the scales are present only on the lower half of the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk scales
    the leaf stalk has scales
    Leaf stalk vessels
    2 bundles
    Leaf vein branching
    the secondary veins of the leaf blade branch dichotomously (two equal branches at each branch point)
    Leaf vein tips
    the veins go all the way to the edge of the leaf blade
    Leaflet relative size
    the bottom leaflets are less than half as long as the leaflets from the middle of the frond
    Leaflet stalks
    the leaflets do not have stalks
    Lobe or leaflet length
    20–135 mm
    Lobe or leaflet pairs
    20–60
    Lobe or leaflet shape
    the lobe or leaflet is extremely narrow, thread-like
    Lobe or leaflet width
    12–27 mm
    Plant growth form
    the leaves grow from a rhizome growing at or below the ground
    final leaf segment margin
    the topmost lobe or leaflet of the leaf blade has a smooth or lobed edge
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • forests
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Spores or spore cones
    Sorus features
    there are no special features on the sorus
    Sorus shape
    there are no sori, or they are concealed in leaf segments or hardened, capsule-like structures derived from a modified leaflet
    Sporangia location
    the spores are hidden inside hardened, rolled-under leaf segments
    Sporangium type
    the sporangia are opaque without an annulus and usually without a stalk (leptosporangiate)
    Spore forms
    there is only one type of spore present

Wetland Status

Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FAC)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. pensylvanica

Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), concern (code: C)

var. pensylvanica

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Matteuccia pensylvanica (Willd.) Raymond
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica (Willd.) Morton
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pubescens (Terry) Clute
  • Onoclea struthiopteris (L.) Hoffmann, in part
  • Pteretis pensylvanica (Willd.) Fern.
  • Struthiopteris pensylvanica Willd.

Family

Onocleaceae

Genus

Matteuccia

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro ssp. pensylvanica (Willd.) A. & D. Löve.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro ssp. pensylvanica (Willd.) A. & D. Löve N

fiddlehead fern. Matteuccia pensylvanica (Willd.) Raymond; M. struthiopteris (L.) Todaro var. pensylvanica (Willd.) Morton; M. struthiopteris (L.) Todaro var. pubescens (Terry) Clute; Onoclea struthiopteris (L.) Hoffmann, pro parte; Pteretis pensylvanica (Willd.) Fern. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Rich, mesic soil of riparian and upland forests, sometimes bordering drainages.