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Fronds of Cinnamon Fern


Osmunda cinnamomea

Common Name: Cinnamon Fern
Family: Osmundaceae

Description: This perennial has narrow, spore-bearing, cinnamon-colored leaves in early spring, which are later encircled by wider sterile green leaves. They are named for their cinnamon colored hairs and reproductive ferns.
An entire found can grow up to three feet high. There are about 20 or more opposite lance-shaped leaflets. There are two separate distinct fronds that appear. The fertile fronds are cinnamon colored and have sori on them. The non-fertile fronds which are green and large will remain until the first frost.
Sori, are found on the cinnamon colored reproductive fronds. The sori produce spores, which are like seeds for other plants. Cinnamon Ferns also have rhizomes, which spread out underground and are capable of sending up new shoots. This can create a colony of ferns all in the same place which are genetically identical.  
The stem is smooth, erect and covered with fine cinnamon colored hairs.
Branching Pattern:
Cinnamon Ferns grow in symmetric clumps. There are reproductive ferns in the middle and larger leafier ferns growing on the outside 
2-5 feet
Conditions/Habitat/Kind of Forest: 
This fern is found in swamps, stream banks and shores. They prefer shaded areas with moist acidic soils. They do not tolerate long term flooding well.  
Known Wildlife Interactions:
The new growth, also known as fiddleheads, are eaten by White-tailed Deer and other animals. The large outer leaves provide good protection for small animals, such as squirrels, toads, birds, snakes, and insects.
Range: They are found along the eastern North America from Newfoundland to Florida. They extend west to the Mississippi. Cinnamon Ferns are also found in South America and Eastern Asia.  
Conservation Status-US/ World Wide: Not threatened in U.S. or globally.
Uses (Human):
The young fronds can be cooked and eaten. The taste is said to resemble asparagus, however not many people eat them. There are also latent buds that can be eaten in early spring and are like chestnuts in size and flavor.

Moran, Mark. Study of North Virginia Ecology: Beggar-tick. Fairfax County Public Schools. Accessed: February 28, 2006. <>

Redington, Charles B. Plants in Wetlands. Redington Field Guides.1994. pg 170-171

Connecticut Wildflowers.  January 20, 2006.  Connecticut Botanical Society.  Accessed:  January 20, 2006. <>

Plants for a Future.  June 2004.  Accessed: January 20, 2006.  <>

The Pennsylvania Flora Project.  Botany Department, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.  Accessed:  January 20, 2006. <>

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species <>

This page was created by: A Coiro, Muhlenberg College
Photos by: L. Rosenberg, edited by N. Smith
Last updated 04/25/06