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Sensitive Fern

Scientific name: Onoclea sensibilia

Everyone has this one in their backyard! These can grow three to four feet tall and equally wide.

The common name is derived from the early sensitivity of this fern to frost.

Photo: R.W. Smith


Its sterile fronds, which wither early, are light to brown-mottled green and deeply cut into long lobes which almost reach the stem.


It can grow in very wet soils as long as there is adequate oxygen. It cannot tolerate sour clay or stagnant water. Also, does not tolerate freezing well, turning black even in light frost.

Life Cycle

Twice-pinnate fertile fronds appear in late summer and, though dead, remain upright through winter. Fiddleheads appear in the spring in shades of pale red.

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