Three species of graceful, imposing deciduous ferns useful in naturalistic plantings. All like plenty of moisture but can survive with less, responding with smaller, less vigorous growth. Rhizomes have heavy growth of matted brown rootsthe source of the osmunda fiber used for potting orchids.
O. cinnamomea. CINNAMON FERN. US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. To 5 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Plant has erect, sterile fronds that arch out toward top. Fertile fronds are also erect but are narrower and much shorter, turning cinnamon-brown as spores ripen. Unfolding young fronds (fiddleheads) are edible; they are usually served as a cooked vegetable, steamed and lightly buttered. Fronds turn showy yellow to orange in fall. Full or light shade.
O. claytoniana. INTER- RUPTED FERN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Grows as tall as 5 ft., more typically to 3 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Shorter in dryish soils. Each frond is interrupted in the middle by several short, brown, spore-bearing segments. Full or light shade.
O. regalis. ROYAL FERN. US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Large fern (to 6 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide) with twice-cut fronds, each leaflet quite large. Coarser in texture than most ferns. Tips of fronds have modified segments that somewhat resemble flower buds; these produce the spores. One of the better ferns for fall color; fronds may turn bright yellow. 'Cristata' has crested fronds; 'Purpurascens' has purplish red new growth and stems that remain purple throughout the season. Likes light shade, but will thrive in sun in wet soil, even in mud. Especially attractive beside streams or ponds.