Submitted by Gary Chafin, Virginia Native Plant Society, Northern Neck Chapter
Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) is a large graceful fern which grows in shady wet areas. It typically attains a height of about 3 feet, but can reach 5 feet in favorable environments.
Pale green to yellow fiddleheads emerge in early spring, quickly becoming sterile fronds. They grow around the central fertile fronds which emerge as silvery fiddleheads before turning cinnamon brown by late spring and giving the fern its name. After frost kills the yellowing infertile fronds, the fertile fronds remain upright throughout most of the winter.
Cinnamon Fern is not related to true cinnamon which is a tropical plant. The only known member of this fern genus still in existence, scientific evidence indicates that it has grown on Earth for at least 75 million years. Its fronds are a dramatic addition to moist humus-rich areas of home gardens.
To choose native plants appropriate for landscaping, see “Go Native—Grow Native” at nnnps.org.