The Matteuccia struthiopteris is a fern from the Onocleaceae family and is commonly named ostrich fern or fiddlehead fern. The ostrich fern occurs in the regions between northern and central Europe and northeastern Asia and also in northern North America.
The word struthiopteris comes from the Ancient Greek where struthio means “ostrich” and pteris “fern”. This name was given because the outer fronds resemble an ostrich feather.
The outer fronds of the ostrich fern form a crown and are sterile. In summer a second type of frond appears in the centre of the crown. These fronds are smaller and carry spores. At first the fertile, inner fronds are green but they turn brown as the spores ripen. The inner fronds will stay erect in the winter and release their spores in spring.
The Matteuccia struthiopteris prefers a shaded and sheltered spot with rich, moist and well-drained soil. Too much sun and/or drought will turn the leaves brown. In clay soil the ostrich fern will not grow very well. This fern can withstand temporary flooding like on creek banks.
The ostrich fern spreads through short rhizomes. This way a colony of ferns growing close to each other will form. The established ferns do not like to be replanted but you can dig up a young fern and replant that. The Matteuccia struthiopteris also spreads through spores. If this fern likes its spot you will have many fast. This fern looks its best in a large garden with enough room to spread.
Characteristic: newly emerging every year
Exposure: part shade/shade
Foliage colour: green
Flower colour: none
Flowering time: none
Hardiness: -25 ºC (-13 ºF)
Height: 3 feet 3 inches (1 m)