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PlantFiles: Sweet-fern
Comptonia peregrina

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Family: Myricaceae
Genus: Comptonia (komp-TOH-nee-uh) (Info)
Species: peregrina (per-uh-GREE-nuh) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

15 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Category:
Herbs
Shrubs

Height:
6-12 in. (15-30 cm)
12-18 in. (30-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Spacing:
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Danger:
N/A

Bloom Color:
Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer

Foliage:
Deciduous
Aromatic

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 9 photos.
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Profile:

5 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive eaim On Nov 1, 2014, eaim from Davidsonville, MD wrote:

I have had this plant for about 16 years...beautiful plant. In the late fall, the scalloped leaves are a combination of bronze, gold, red, and green before turning tan and dropping. I probably have it at its southernmost limit? I brought it with me from Maine, and planted it in a mix of horrible construction backfill and clay soil (dirt?), and it took off...
The plant is now about 4.5 feet high and sends out new sprouts rhizomatously. It has not grown much width-wise....but has filled out. I love it.

Positive Zephyrae13 On Dec 28, 2010, Zephyrae13 from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I would see this plant all over in the Brule River State Park up in Wisconsin. It always is found in sunny locations with well drained (sandy!), slightly acidic soil. It is found in conjunction with Jack, White, and Red Pine, blueberries, Hawkweed, Pussy toes, Bearberry, Barren Strawberry and Sand Cherry. The smell is citrusy, and sweet. Only a couple plants are needed for the fragrance to really get around. They have a deep tap root, so transplanting them from the wild successfully is nearly impossible. Best to start from seed, in my opinion. Good for a rock garden, bonsai, or a raised berm. Not alkalai or salt tolerant.

Neutral dreamgreen On Oct 5, 2010, dreamgreen from Weaverville, NC wrote:

I have not yet grown this plant but there is a very informative article about Sweet-fern including the best time to take cuttings at http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/445.pdf

Neutral dmith7777 On Sep 6, 2010, dmith7777 from East Brookfield, MA wrote:

This plant needs dry, sandy, crap soil with little or no nutrients,

Negative Tigernach On May 13, 2009, Tigernach from Charlottesville, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

I've now killed this plant three times. I've been able to successfully culture it in a pot, but the moment I put it in the ground it always dies. For that mater, I've transplanted ones from the wild and established them in pots fairly easily. I just can't get them to grow in soil. There has got to be some soil requirement they need that I'm just not understanding... If someone figures that out then please post.

Positive EffieH On May 11, 2009, EffieH from Amston, CT (Zone 6b) wrote:

Sweet fern grows wild in our area of Connecticut and we just ADORE it -- it's not only beautiful but smells so sweet. My husband and I tried digging one up from the wild one time and transplanting it to a dry rocky area in our yard, but it died immediately. I've since read that it is extremely hard to almost impossible to transplant a wild one and that you should look for nursery grown plants. We were hiking this weekend along some power lines in a hot, dry, rocky area and there was a whole field of sweetfern and I was inspired to see if I could buy some online. I just found some for sale on eBay from seller "WildthingsNursery" and ordered them -- I'm hoping I can get them to grow in my yard! I'll report back and let everyone know if they made it or not.

4/25/2010 -- UPDATE ONE YEAR LATER: I just double checked the ebay seller's site and they are not selling them this spring, and I wanted to correct the name, it's 'Dawn's Wild Things" -- I'm going to email her to see if she will sell me another one! I ordered one sweet-fern last spring and she sent me three in order to increase my chances since they are notoriously hard to grow -- thankfully, that strategy worked, one was pretty much "doa" -- another leafed out but died later in the summer, but the third one took really well and lived all summer -- and it has come back this spring!! It hasn't grown, but it's still alive! I'm so excited!

I did a little research as to where to put it and found the following information: "well-drained, dry, acid, sandy or gravelly soils. Drought and salt tolerant. Dry, sterile, sandy to rocky soils in pinelands or pine barrens, clearings, or edges of woodlots"

So I decided the best spot in my yard would be an area where we took down a blue spruce several years ago -- I've since put wood chips in that area and turned it into a perennial garden, but I put the sweet fern right next to the stump where the spruce used to be, in full sun all day -- it gets really hot there and several other perennials had died there due to the somewhat harsh conditions, but the sweet fern is still living as of this spring.

Neutral Shrubman88 On Sep 2, 2008, Shrubman88 from Westmoreland, NH (Zone 4b) wrote:

This plant so far for me has been difficult to establish. I have tried to start numerous small plants that have been transplanted, and they have all wilted away.

Clint

Positive gregr18 On Aug 29, 2006, gregr18 from Bridgewater, MA (Zone 6b) wrote:

If you are walking in sandy pine woods in southeastern MA or on Cape Cod, it is difficult to escape this plant and its spicy scent. It doesn't like to be disturbed in the wild, and those who want to grow it should be able to find it available from New England nurseries that sell woody plants. Nursery stock takes transplanting and garden culture much better than wild stock, but the plant does need to be babied a bit while it establishes itself.

Positive ellyssian On May 22, 2005, ellyssian from Lehighton, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

Sweet fern grows wild along my street - several neighbors have it growing in abundance. We have two 3x4' shrubs and two that are still single stem, 1-2' tall. They are growing on a bank, and seem to be hanging on in the face of some serious erosion.

The fragrance is strong enough to catch traces of it as you walk by, although I had to roll a leaf between my fingers to verify exactly where it was coming from.

I couldn't find anyone who could identify what it was, and early searches and modern books all failed me. One night I was flipping through a 1930's era book "Our Northern Shrubs" and there it was - very distinctive long leaves, that look like overlapping alternate plates that give it a fern-like look, hence the common name.

It does a great job as a supporting shrub, and would work well in a woodland garden. Probably wouldn't be well suited for more formal affairs, however.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Amston, Connecticut
Glastonbury, Connecticut
Voluntown, Connecticut
Valparaiso, Indiana
Falmouth, Maine
Davidsonville, Maryland
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Eastham, Massachusetts
Haydenville, Massachusetts
Mashpee, Massachusetts
Norton, Massachusetts
West Yarmouth, Massachusetts
Lake, Michigan
Greenville, New Hampshire
Westmoreland, New Hampshire
Binghamton, New York
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Lehighton, Pennsylvania
Media, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Brattleboro, Vermont
Woodstock, Vermont
Blacksburg, Virginia
Ashland, Wisconsin



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