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Common Name: Ostrich Fern
Matteuccia pensylvanica is a Fern up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable[
Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase[
Eastern N. America - C. Alaska to Dakota.
Rich woods, often in alluvial or mucky swamp soils from sea level to elevations of 1500 metres[
Requires a moist but well-drained position and light shade[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Dislikes full sun, the leaves turning yellow and burning in such a situation[
]. Prefers a pH between 5 and 6.5[
Hardy to about -20°c[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
This species is included in O. struthiopteris by most botanists, but it is slightly different[
A very ornamental plant[
], it establishes rapidly[
]. It has a short rhizome but produces long stolons, by which it spreads rapidly once established[
], and it can be invasive[
]. Fertile fronds are produced after the first flush of vegetative fronds and persist throughout the following winter. The spores are shed in mid-winter[
Grown commercially for its decorative fronds[
]. These fronds are also available as a food from speciality markets[
]. Plants can be forced in the winter to provide an early supply of the young shoots[
Young fronds - raw or cooked[
]. Used before they fully unroll, they are thick and succulent[
]. Sometimes sold in speciality markets according to some reports[
], whilst another says that they are a famine food that is only used when all else fails[
Rootstock - peeled and roasted[
Spores - surface sow as soon as they are ripe in mid-winter and keep the soil moist. It is best to keep the pot in a sealed plastic bag to hold in the moisture. Pot up small clumps of the young plants as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in light shade until large enough to plant out.
Division during the dormant season between early autumn and early spring[
]. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.