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Comptonia peregringa

Comptonia peregringa

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Sweet Fern is not a fern, but a deciduous shrub in the bay family. It forms a moderately-sized mound of aromatic attractive, fern-like foliage. Small yellow-green flowers appear in late spring or early summer. They are nothing special, but they do give way to brownish seed capsules which persist on the plant through winter. Foliage turns a orangey-brown in fall.

This East Coast native shrub grows in just about any condition, but prefers acidic, sandy loam in full sun. It thrives in soils with low-fertility.

This is an incredibly easy to grow ground cover that works well for bank stabilization, erosion control, and naturalistic plantings. It does not transplant well, but it does rapidly form colonies.

Host plant of the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus). See Image 4.

Zones: 2 to 6

Family: Myricaceae

Type: Deciduous Shrub

Height: 2 to 5 ft.

Spread: 4 to 8 ft.

Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

Soil Conditions: Wet to dry

Bloom Time: April to May

Bloom Color: Yellowish-green

Image Credits:

  • Images 1 (form) Sten Porse, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Image 2 (buds) peganum from Small Dole, England, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Image 3 (fall color) Photo by Skyler Ewing:
  • Image 4 (Grey hairstreak) by Ali McEnhill at the Old Dairy
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