Ostrich ferns

The lovely ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is a member of the Onocleaceae fern family native to North America. A perennial that will move about the garden from year to year searching for optimal location, it first appears in spring as tightly wound curls from a brown stumplike root, then fans out into broad, compound leaves that can reach 5 feet in height, although 2'-3' is more typical. It occurs naturally in scattered locations in northern and western Illinois.


The ostrich fern reproduces primarily by "fertile" leaves that appear brown in late summer and produce spores on the underside that are released the next spring. However, it can also send out rhizomes that help populate an area in clusters.  These ferns tolerate shade and water well, and in fact need watering during dry spells; they usually wilt come the heat of July and August unless well-watered and/or protected from direct sun. They are also fragile and don't bounce back during the season if trampled, but will try again next spring.